Jake “The Snake” Roberts’ birth name is great. It sounds more like a wrestler’s name than Jake. Roberts was born Aurelian Smith Jr. He prefers to be referred to as Jake.
You most likely remember Jake as the guy with the snake. The wrestler was a massive star in the late 80s and 90s, feuding with the likes of Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage and Stone Cold Steve Austin. And due to a mistake with a snake, Roberts is the current Republican Presidential Nominee’s favorite wrestler.
You may not know about Roberts’ struggles with addiction. The 1999 documentary Beyond the Mat first highlighted the performer’s problems. The next decade wasn’t great either. More mistakes and missteps lit up message boards and TMZ. Four years ago, Roberts got clean thanks to the help of fellow former wrestler Diamond Dallas Page. All of this is seen in 2015 documentary The Resurrection of Jake the Snake.
Roberts was and is a fan favorite. Unlike colorful characters he shared the ring with, Roberts wore his struggles and darkness on his tights. His gimmick involved a snake, something most people find off putting, including Jake. He spoke softly and talked about the dark side. His most famous in ring move, the DDT, looks, and occasionally is, something that will deliver a concussion. Now he’s telling funny stories.
The performers is in Baltimore this weekend. He spoke with BYT about the films, the spoken word tour and his run-in with the ex-wife of a presidential candidate.
Brightest Young Things: How do you feel about living through hard times on camera?
Jake Roberts: I think people realize how hard it was to do that. They also see the benefits of being done. People who are seeing the flick are seeing the benefits. Now that I’m doing the comedy show, people are seeing me in an entirely new light because the show is hilarious.
I’m telling road stories and stuff that happened in the locker room and in the ring. It’s a peek at the behind the scenes stuff and fans want that.
It’s one of the things I’ve gotten out of my journey and the movie, the ability to help others and that is an incredible high.
When you start helping other people, it gives you a whole identity. I’m so happy with my life right now. For the first time in my life, I’m proud of me. All those years in WWE, I was still hiding, I was still an alcoholic, I was still addicted. I was hiding behind those demons and they were eating me alive.
BYT: You were one of the scariest men and best talkers in wrestling. You were quiet and confident. You were not funny. It was not comedy.
J.R.: No, but it is now.
I’m opening the door. For instance, I’m terrified of snakes. Nobody knew that. I can’t stand the dang things.
There are some serious moments in the show because I talk about my addiction problems and I invite people in the audience struggling with addiction problems to talk to me after the show.
Don’t be afraid, don’t be ashamed. Shame is the devil, man. It’s what beat me to death for years. I’ve been there. I understand it. Let’s talk. I’m there for you.
BYT: You’re doing something very similar to Mick Foley…
J.R.: Except mine is funny.
BYT: Are you finding a lot of commonalities with stand ups?
J.R.: No. My stuff is completely different. You’ll see. My stuff is raw, it’s not for children, there will be a few f-bombs dropped.
When you get a bunch of men in a locker room, they things that they say, the things that they do, it’s pretty crazy. At best, it’s insanity. The things we did to each other, I could go on forever.
BYT: One of the stories I heard involves Ivana Trump.
J.R.: Yep. That happened.
I was wrestling Rick Rude and she wasn’t paying any attention to us at all and Rick Rude is an animal. We had been gutting it out for 20 minutes. We could not get her attention at all. She was drinking her little champagne, had her body turned to the side, not even looking at the ring. I considered it a huge insult. So when I was exited the ring I accidentally spun around and had the snake and it slapped her in the breast. She took a bump backwards and Donald was running up the aisle.
I saw Donald years later and was informed by the lady he was dating at the time, Marla, that I was his favorite wrestler because of it.
Mrs. Trump, at the time Mrs. Trump, tried to find her bodyguards and do me in because of that.
Maybe there’s a spot in Trump’s cabinet for me.
BYT: Resurrection wasn’t the first documentary you were in. Beyond the Mat didn’t portray you in a kind light.
It was a total lie. I was manipulated, conned into doing it, I was the only one not paid.
BYT: But it makes Resurrection more powerful.
J.R.: Yeah, I agree with that.
BYT: So maybe it’s not for the worst, you’re an even more sympathetic person.
J.R.: I was stomped and put down and urinated on and everything else for telling the truth for so many years.
For so many years, I was the only one that talked about ever done drugs or had done this or that and we all know better than that. I was the only ones that had guts to stand up and say it. I just made my life miserable and then stood up and said I have problems. Then Vince McMahon came out and said, “The problem with Jake is we don’t know when he’s high and when he’s not.” So, what do you do there?
I’m just glad to be through it.
I want to talk to people. The fans have been so good to me. They never gave up on me. I gave up on myself years ago. But the fans never gave up on me and I appreciate it.
BYT: You were playing with dark stuff but seemed a lot more real than guys like Hulk Hogan and even an eight-year-old could tell you were more ‘real.’ Is that fair to Hogan? Is that fair to you?
J.R.: I think that’s fair and I think it’s fair to Hogan. Now we all know Hogan isn’t the guy he was portrayed to be. You never saw the dark side or bad side to him and now you are.
For me, I think the kids liked me because it made mom and dad squirm. “Oh my god, that gross snake! Get that away from me!” Kids love it.
I have so many things to be grateful for. I have a career that is pretty hard to touch. Not many people achieve the level I did. I guess all the athletes should be grateful I wasn’t clean and sober because there wouldn’t have been room for anyone but me.