Slithering back: Jake "The Snake" Roberts on his triumphant return
No one ever expected to see Jake “The Snake” Roberts in a WWE ring again – including Jake himself. During the 1980s and ’90s, the native of Stone Mountain, Ga., became a household name and his likeness adorned everything from lunchboxes to action figures. The Snake’s short-arm clothesline and DDT were as ubiquitous as Hogan’s big boot and leg drop. His interviews were the stuff of legend and his rivalries were among the most intense WWE had ever seen. But Jake’s path took a dark turn after his last WWE match 17 years ago.
For decades, one of WWE’s most talented performers battled life’s greatest struggles. Personal tragedies and intense addictions haunted The Snake away from the squared circle, keeping him from a homecoming to the fans that loved to both cheer and boo him. But a little more than one year ago, chatter began to surface that Jake was getting his life back on track thanks to Diamond Dallas Page. And just before the Jan. 6 edition of Raw went off the air, there he was, looking better than ever, snake bag slung over his shoulder, ready to wreak havoc on the roster. It was as triumphant a return as ever before witnessed in the world of sports-entertainment.
Just days following this emotional comeback, WWE.com spoke with the venerated competitor in an eye-opening, one-on-one conversation to discuss Jake’s darkest days and long journey to recovery. This is a story of heartache, a story of redemption, a story of pride. This is how Jake “The Snake” Roberts rose once again. Trust us.
WWE.COM: How did your return at Old School Raw come about?
JAKE ROBERTS: I got a call from [Diamond] Dallas [Page] on Saturday afternoon saying, “Dude, are you sitting down? Are you alone?” He told me WWE wanted to talk with me about an opportunity. At that point, I went completely blank. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t make sense of what was inside my head. It has been such a journey for me. They told me they were going to play it really old school by keeping it a secret from everybody, which was pretty cool. It brought back a lot of memories.
WWE.COM: How were you kept hidden backstage?
JAKE: They said I was going to fly into a different airport so nobody saw me. I flew into Washington instead of Baltimore. They picked me up there and told me to call when I was 10 minutes away from the building so they could smuggle me in. I went to one of the busses and I stayed on there until about 10 minutes before the whole thing. I had no idea what we were going to do. At about five o’clock, after I had been there for about four or five hours, I was told what was going on. I was told to chill out and they’d bring me food and to call a number if I needed anything. It was good, because it gave me time to reflect about where I’d been and what got me there.
WWE.COM: Other than DDP, who knew that you were going to be there?
JAKE: As far as I know, only [talent executive] Mark Carrano, the lady that did the travel, Hunter, Vince and that was it. They smuggled me into the Gorilla Position, which was real fun – walking with my head down, not being able to see anything other than my feet. To shake Vince’s hand again was really big for me. When you’re where I was at, with the addiction, anger and confusion in my mind, you tend to paint the picture the way you want, which is wrong. When you’re full of hate, I thought it was everybody’s fault but mine, and that’s not the truth. And now I’ve faced the truth and come to grips with what I’ve done. Once I started getting clean, I started evaluating my life. I said some things that were really off-base, out of line and just complete lies. So it was great to see Vince again, have a nice, firm handshake and be able to thank the man for the opportunity to be standing there. Honestly, I didn’t think it would ever happen.
WWE.COM: What was going through your mind as you were walking down the ramp?
JAKE: The first thing that happened was I needed to go pee. For all my career, right before the bell would ring, my body would tell me that. That feeling came back. Right then I knew I was back because I was getting that rush and that buzz. The last thing I was told was, “Go get it. It’s your time, Jake.” When I walked out, it was like I was deaf. I was in a zone, free of all the pain, disappointment, fears – all of that was gone. I was in a state of euphoria. After the long walk down the ramp to the ring, The Snake took over as it always did. I never had think about what I was doing out there.
WWE.COM: How did you feel once you stepped through the ropes?
JAKE: I appreciate CM Punk so much more now than I ever have. He kneeled down over at the side, got completely out of the picture and allowed me to have that moment. It was incredible. It shows people what a true professional he is. He really raised himself up on my list of people that I respect. He didn’t have to do that. I’m the old fart who screwed up what I had. To be allowed to come back to WWE is the greatest gift that’s ever been given to me. Back in the day, I never appreciated what WWE had given me, because I was in too much disarray and too confused about my own life. I let opportunities foolishly slip through my hands. To be given this opportunity to come back and grab a small piece of what was, that’s very special.
WWE.COM: What happened after you got backstage when Raw went off the air?
JAKE: The hands were out. The smiles were out. I can tell that some of them knew what I was feeling. They could see it in me. I know I was glowing, no doubt about that. For once in my life, I was at a loss of words. And I’ve never been at a loss of words. I was the guy that could talk. I couldn’t even say my name.
WWE.COM: What path had your life taken that led you to believe you might never return to WWE?
JAKE: I’d done some bad things. I tried to not keep myself waiting for it. You can’t live for a moment that may not happen. You need to live in the moment. If it hadn’t been for Vince McMahon, I wouldn’t have gone to the rehabs that I went to. The rehabs didn’t work. And the reason they didn’t work is because I wasn’t ready. I hadn’t really found the problem. It wasn’t just my addictions. I went through a lot in my life that scarred me pretty good. I built a wall around myself to the point where nobody knew what was really going on inside of me, including myself.
WWE.COM: How did you get back on the road to recovery?
JAKE: I lived with Dallas for a long time. Dallas would constantly say, “Dude, why are you so down on yourself all the time? You’re so negative. You gotta stop this.” I had a real bad habit of putting myself down. All those years, I thought I was in a bad mood because I didn’t have my drug or my drink. The real problem was much deeper than that. It was about having a chemical imbalance in my body that affected me 24/7. Fifteen months ago, Diamond Dallas Page opened the door for me and I stumbled in.
WWE.COM: How exactly did DDP help you, and how did you come to live with him in Atlanta?
JAKE: I was living in Texas and not in the penthouse. I was living in the outhouse, brother. The way I was living was pretty disgusting. I had squandered everything. I hated what I’d become. I’d taken all the mirrors down in my house because I didn’t want to see myself. Dallas called me. I’d helped Dallas out several years before to get his wrestling in line to the point where he could make a go of it at an age where everybody said he was too old. He was just Mr. Positive and so gung-ho and thank God he is. He told me about DDP Yoga and I agreed to do it. I changed my eating habits and lost 10 pounds in a week or so. Next thing I know, I lost 16. [DDP] told me, “If you lose 15 more pounds, I’ll move you to Atlanta with me. I’ll take care of the bills.” In less than two weeks, I’d lost 15 or 20 pounds. I came to Atlanta and that was my make or break moment.
WWE.COM: What made being in Atlanta a make or break moment?
JAKE: Reality was here. I was gonna go cold turkey, and when you do that your body is going to react. But I made it five days, then a week, then two weeks, then a month. There were a couple rough nights, but I made it through.
WWE.COM: What’s next for Jake Roberts?
JAKE: I’ve got a book that should be hopefully coming out in April. I’m doing a voice for “Lucas Bros. Moving Co.” on Fox that will be following “Family Guy.” But I pray for the moment to be in the ring again. I desperately want to give my fans, my friends and myself that one last shot. My dream is to leave this business on my own terms, and if it were my terms, I would love to do the Royal Rumble. I would love to do WrestleMania in New Orleans, because I had so many matches there over the years working for Mid-South. I was in the ring with Muhammad Ali in the Superdome. To close it there would be great.