Jake Roberts Profile
Born: May 30, 1955 (Aurelian Jake Smith Jnr.) | Birthplace: Gainesville, Texas
Billed Hometown: Stone Mountain, Georgia | Billed Weight: 249 lbs
Jake Roberts was a second generation wrestler, his father being the well respected wrestler/booker Aurelian “Grizzly” Smith Sr, who mostly worked in the southern United States, and later became a booker and promoter for Bill Watts’ Mid-South Wrestlin,g and then as a road agent for the WWF and WCW. Jake’s half-sister and half-brother also became wrestlers – Robin Smith (Rockin’ Robin) and Michael Smith (Sam Houston). Jake started in 1974, working as a referee in Louisiana before becoming a wrestler, and worked for Mid-South Wrestling, Mid-Atlantic, Georgia Championship Wrestling, Stampede Wrestling and World Class Championship Wrestling.
For this part of his career, Jake used a running knee-lift as a finisher, until he invented his new trademark move by accident when he placed his opponent (Len Denton) in a front face-lock and fell backwards. After hearing the response, Jake refined the move into what we know today as the ‘DDT,’ named after a controversial and harmful pesticide now mostly outlawed. (The letters ‘DDT’ for the wrestling move have been rumored to be “Damien’s Dinner Time” or “Damien’s Death Trap,” among other theories). After falling out with Bill Watts in Mid-South, Jake signed with the World Wrestling Federation.
Jake debuted for the WWF in March 1986 and immediately made an impact – not only with his ability and his promos – but in his use of a python named Damien, which he brought to the ring in an ominous green bag. After hitting the DDT and getting the three count, Jake now made a habit of releasing Damien onto his helpless opponents.
Jake’s first rivalry was with Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, which kicked off on the May 3, 1986 edition of Saturday Night’s Main Event. Before the bell rang for their match, Jake knocked Steamboat to the outside and then delivered a vile DDT onto the bare concrete floor, which knocked “The Dragon” out cold. Jake and Steamboat went on to wrestle a series of “Snake Pit” matches (no disqualification), and Steamboat soon brought his own ‘dragon’ to the ring to counter Damien. Jake narrowly lost to Steamboat at The Big Event in front of over sixty thousand fans in Toronto, and the feud came to a close on the October 4 Saturday Night’s Main Event, when Steamboat used his ‘dragon’ to chase Jake and Damien out of the ring.
Despite Jake’s proficiency at being a heel, the fans reacted to him in a positive light, and culminated in him being turned into a fan favourite. The first signs of Roberts’ connection with the fans occurred during his first match with Randy Savage – a rare heel versus heel bout – in which Roberts was heavily cheered. An attempt to start a feud between Jake and WWF Champion Hulk Hogan was cancelled when fans chanted for the DDT during their first match. Jake officially turned during “The Snake Pit” – a segment where Jake interviewed wrestlers similar to “Piper’s Pit” – when he was battered with a guitar by Intercontinental champion, The Honky Tonk Man. Jake challenged unsuccessfully for the Intercontinental Title at Wrestlemania III on March 29, 1987, a bout where Jake had rock star Alice Cooper in his corner. After the match, Jake held Honky’s manager Jimmy Hart while Cooper draped Damien over him.
On the April 23, 1988 edition of Superstars, Jake began a feud with “Ravishing” Rick Rude. Rude made a habit of having his manager Bobby Heenan pick out a female fan for Rude to smooch after getting a victory; on this occasion, Heenan picked out Jake’s real-life wife, Cheryl. When Cheryl refused to comply, Rude responded with insults before being slapped across the face. When Rude began getting physical, Jake charged from the back. Rude also wore tights with his opponents airbrushed on them; the next time Rude came to the ring, he had Cheryl across his front. This caused an enraged Roberts to run out and strip Rude almost naked of his offensive ring gear. When Rude revealed another airbrushed image of Cheryl on his tights for his Summerslam 1988 match with Junkyard Dog, Jake again hit the ring and dispatched him (which inadvertently caused Junkyard Dog to be disqualified).
At the Survivor Series on November 24, Roberts found himself in a four-on-one situation, with little hope of survival. He did manage to DDT and eliminate Rude, but was then viciously choked out by Andre the Giant; when Andre was finally disqualified, Jake was out of it and immediately pinned by Mr Perfect to end the match.
In the post-Survivor Series interviews, Jake made it clear he was unhappy with Andre’s flagrant disregard for the rules, while Andre stated how much he enjoyed putting his hands around Jake’s throat. At the 1989 Royal Rumble on January 24, Roberts first revealed Andre’s possible fear of snakes when he hit the ring with Damien, and Andre threw himself over the top rope to eliminate himself. On the March 11, 1989 Saturday Night’s Main Event, Jake confirmed Andre’s fear by throwing Damien onto him in the ring, which almost caused The Giant to have a heart attack. Andre for the most part dominated their matches, but Jake did score a disqualification victory over him at Wrestlemania V in a match with “Big” John Studd as the referee.
Roberts was injured at the hands of Ted Dibiase (the cover for Jake to get surgery on his neck). He returned and battled with Dibiase throughout the rest of 1989 and into 1990, and even managed to steal Dibiase’s Million Dollar Belt, which he kept in his green bag. (Roberts taunted Dibiase to try and put his hand in the bag, and revealed a series of different snakes that could be in there). At Wrestlemania VI on April 1, 1990, Jake lost to The Million Dollar Man by count-out; Jake then DDT’ed Dibiase and stuffed his mouth full of his own banknotes. He distributed some of Dibiase’s money to the crowd, and even handed a $100 bill to actress Mary Tyler-Moore. (Still, Dibiase’s bodyguard Virgil managed to reclaim the Million Dollar Belt for his employer).
He briefly feuded with Bad News Brown, who claimed Jake was afraid of his ‘New York sewer rats,’ and the two fought at Summerslam on August 27 with Big Bossman as guest referee. Roberts’ next big rivalry was with “The Model” Rick Martel, when he was blinded by Martel’s perfume ‘Arrogance’ on The Brother Love Show. Jake returned with the help of officials for another Brother Love segment, in which the host and Martel taunted him, before Martel slapped his face. Jake grabbed a hold of Brother Love and gave him a DDT; the cameras zoomed in on Roberts’ eyes, one of which was completely white, the other also clearly affected. When Roberts recovered from his injuries, he challenged Martel to a blindfold match at Wrestlemania VII, which Jake won with the help of the fans.
Since entering the WWF back in early 1986, Damien had been a vital component of Jake’s psychological arsenal. On the April 27, 1991 edition of Superstars, Roberts was pitted with the 450 pound-plus Earthquake. During the match, Roberts’ arms became tied in the ropes; now incapacitated, Earthquake made his move on the green bag. Jake was forced to watch as Earthquake squashed Damien in the middle of the ring; when Jake got free and checked the bag, his reaction confirmed the fan’s worst fears. A few weeks later on Prime Time Wrestling, Earthquake served some hamburgers to hosts Vince McMahon, Lord Alfred Hayes and Bobby Heenan (which he called Quake Burgers); after they each took a bite, Earthquake revealed the mystery ingredient was Damien. Roberts then introduced a new snake, which he claimed was Damien’s ‘big brother’ Lucifer, and faced Earthquake in a series of house show matches. During his battles with Earthquake, Jake had a surprising ally in Andre the Giant, who himself had been injured and put out for a time by Earthquake.
In the summer of 1991, The Ultimate Warrior entered into a feud with The Undertaker and was looking for an edge; of course he went to Jake The Snake to help him understand the ‘dark side.’ Jake put Warrior through a series of ‘tests;’ being locked in a metal casket, being buried alive after digging his own grave, and walking around a room full of snakes. Warrior was met with a small box in the middle of the room which when opened, revealed a king cobra. The cobra bit Warrior in the face, and as he succumbed to the venom, The Undertaker and Paul Bearer appeared with Jake, to reveal all three had been in partnership the whole time. Now back to being a rulebreaker, Jake and The Undertaker crashed the wedding reception of Randy Savage and Elizabeth at Summerslam on August 26. Elizabeth opened up a gift box that contained the cobra and then Jake and Undertaker attacked Savage before being chased off by Sid Justice.
Sid was scheduled on an episode of Superstars to face the masked ‘El Diablo’ until Paul Bearer and The Undertaker showed up and appeared to pay him off. The match was restarted to be Sid against The Undertaker, only for ‘El Diablo’ to return and reveal himself to be Jake Roberts. They tied Sid’s arms in the ropes and were about to unleash their cobra on him when Jim Duggan made the save. When The Warrior was released after Summerslam and Sid was put out with an injury, Jake turned his full attention to Randy Savage. At Wrestlemania VII, Savage had lost to The Ultimate Warrior in a “Career Match,” and was put on announcing duties.
Jake decided to goad Savage in the belief that he would not be reinstated to wrestle, and finally his barbs and insults became too much for The Macho Man. Despite the protests of his commentary partners Vince McMahon and Rowdy Roddy Piper, Savage headed to the ring and was immediately set upon. Jake tied Savage’s arms in the ropes – as he had done to Sid – and brought out the king cobra. This time, the cobra did strike, and bit deep into Savage’s bicep to the horror of the crowd. After he was freed, Savage attempted to go after Jake, but was clearly feeling the effects of the poison (even though Jake had claimed to WWF President Jack Tunney that he’d had the snake devenomised).
After the incident, Tunney decreed that snakes were now banned from ringside, and reinstated Savage. At the Tuesday in Texas pay-per-view on December 3, Savage won the battle but not the war; after Savage got the win, Jake recovered and hit him with three DDT’s and slapped Elizabeth. The heated feud continued until early 1992; Jake was eliminated from the Royal Rumble by Savage and lost again in their match on the January 27 Saturday Night’s Main Event. Jake was so incensed by the loss he waited near the entrance-way with a steel chair, ready to hit either Savage or Elizabeth, whomever came through the curtain first. Jake was about to swing the chair to hit Elizabeth when he was stopped by The Undertaker.
This would be Jake’s last feud in this first run with the WWF. On a segment of The Funeral Parlour, Jake confronted Paul Bearer, and then gave him a DDT. When The Undertaker emerged to check on his manager, Jake locked his hand in his own metal casket and blasted him with a steel chair. In the lead-up to their bout at Wrestlemania VIII on April 5, 1992, Jake had a falling out with Vince McMahon when he was denied a spot on the creative team. (Jake claimed that he had been promised the spot left by former Vince right-hand man Pat Patterson, who was told to take a break when he became the subject of a sexual harassment claim). Jake threatened to no-show Wrestlemania if he did not get a release, which was then granted. Roberts appeared, was beaten comprehensively by The Undertaker, and left the World Wrestling Federation.
Roberts signed with the WWF’s rival World Championship Wrestling, and debuted for the company on August 2, when he came through the crowd and attacked Sting, laying him out with two DDT’s onto a steel chair. Roberts found an ally in Cactus Jack – who was already feuding with “The Stinger” – and Roberts and Cactus met Sting and Nikita Koloff in a series of tag matches. Jake challenged Sting to a match for Halloween Havoc on October 25, the stipulation of which would be determined on a wheel devised by Jake himself. After new WCW boss Bill Watts announced that he and WCW were absolving themselves of any negligence by not sanctioning the bout, Sting ‘spun the wheel to make the deal’ and the marker landed on a coal miner’s glove’ (chained glove). Jake was thwarted at Havoc by his own cobra biting him, and Sting got the pin. Shortly after, Jake left after another falling out with Watts, who refused to commit to the big-money deal Jake had signed before Watts came on board.
Now essentially blacklisted from the major North American federations, Jake went international. In Mexico, he feuded with top star Konnan in 1993-1994, which was resolved when Jake lost a ‘hair versus hair’ match on May 27 at TripleMania. He returned briefly to the United States scene for Smokey Mountain Wrestling and became SMW Heavyweight champion when he beat “Dirty White Boy” Tony Anthony; after no-showing some dates, Jake was stripped of the title and took a hiatus at the end of 1994.
In 1996, Jake returned to wrestling and signed with the WWF after he became a born-again Christian, and this was used for his new character and referenced in storylines. He played an underdog character, and made it to the final of the King of the Ring tournament on June 23, 1996, where he famously lost to “Stonecold” Steve Austin, who in his victory speech used the ‘Austin 3:16’ phrase for the first time. Jake also feuded with Jerry “The King” Lawler, who taunted Jake about his past issues with alcohol, which Jake swore he no longer touched; in an angle that infuriated Jake, Lawler attacked him and forcefully poured a bottle of Jack Daniel’s down his throat. In early 1997, Jake began to relapse back into his drug and alcohol problems and was released in February.
He made two surprise appearances for Extreme Championship Wrestling, the first being at the company’s second pay-per-view Hardcore Heaven, on August 17, 1997, when he ran-in on the Tommy Dreamer/Jerry Lawler bout; Roberts clotheslined both men before he departed. He appeared again as the mystery partner of Dreamer for the November to Remember pay-per-view on November 1, 1998 where they defeated Justin Credible and Jack Victory.
On October 10, 1999, Jake infamously took part in the Heroes of Wrestling pay-per-view, where he was set to face Jim Neidhart. A clearly inebriated Jake cut a rambling and senseless pre-match promo before coming out to the ring, in no condition to wrestle. Promoter Bill Stone changed the match to a tag team main event of Jake and King Kong Bundy against Neidhart and Yokozuna. As Jake began disrobing in the middle of the ring at the conclusion of the bout, the feed was immediately cut.
In 2000, Hollywood writer and long-time wrestling fan Barry Blaustein released his documentary on professional wrestling called Beyond the Mat. Critically acclaimed with mostly positive reviews, Jake was highlighted as a broken, down-and-out former famous wrestling star now racked with drug and alcohol addiction. The film also touched on his estrangment from his daughter due to years away on the road, and his troubled childhood. After the film’s release, Jake claimed he was lied to about the purpose of the movie, which was that it was meant to be a warning to others about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Blaustein denied this, but not surprisingly, Jake did not get an invite to the premiere.
Jake moved to England and worked a number of shows, such as Ricky Knight’s World Association of Wrestling and NWA Hammerlock, where he became their Heavyweight champion on October 20, 2002. The following month, Roberts ran three shows under the name Real Stars of Wrestling, with himself and Honky Tonk Man as the main event. Roberts’ final appearance in the UK was at the WAW October Outrage show, in which he turned up in no condition to perform, cut a drunken promo and almost got into a brawl with members of the locker room. (He also had issues with the RSPCA, who confiscated the snake he brought to the ring; Jake claims the snake died in their care).
He returned to the United States and made three appearances for TNA Wrestling; on the October 19, 2006 episode of Impact!, at the Bound for Glory 2006 pay-per-view where he helped Samoa Joe defeat Raven, and then the June 8, 2008 Slammiversary pay-per-view as a guest at Jay Lethal and SoCal Val’s ‘wedding.’ On January 29, 2011, Jake wrestled his ‘retirement’ match in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla against Sinn Bodhi in a winning effort, but came out of retirement to work some more independent dates.
Roberts reappeared in WWE on the March 14, 2005 edition of RAW, when he warned Randy Orton about facing The Undertaker at Wrestlemania 21; Orton responded by giving Jake an RKO. Jake also worked with WWE to produce the “Pick Your Poison” biographical DVD on his career which was released later in the year. In October 2012, Roberts moved in with his friend Diamond Dallas Page to seek help for his addictions and weight issues which led to a complete transformation; Roberts had a cancer scare in February 2014 but in July announced after having surgery that he was now cancer-free.
On January 6, 2014, Jake reappeared on RAW and laid his python over the unconscious body of Dean Ambrose (this led to Ambrose getting into trouble when he smiled during the ‘ordeal,’ unable to contain his happiness at working with his childhood hero). Jake was inducted into the 2014 WWE Hall of Fame by Page. In 2015, a much healthier and positive Jake Roberts appeared as the star of another documentary “The Resurrection of Jake the Snake,” which highlighted his time with Page and the help his friend gave him.
Jake signed with All Elite Wrestling and in his first appearance, cut a promo on Cody, before becoming the manager of Lance Archer.