Badseed's Bottomline Supplemental
WWE Legends: Jake “The Snake” Roberts: Pick Your Poison
Distributed by World Wrestling Entertainment
Running Time: 360 Minutes
Rating: Recommended for mature audiences
Reviewed by Jon Minners
Jake “The Snake” Roberts is probably one of the greatest wrestlers to never win the world title. At a time when wrestling was first starting to heat up and Wrestlemania II was shaping up, Roberts busted on to the scene and captivated an audience by beating his opponent with a unique move he called the DDT and followed it up by wrapping his pet snake Damien onto his helpless victim. His promos were entertaining and intelligent, rivaling those of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Arn Anderson. The wrestler and his dark; almost gothic character was ahead of his time, ushering in the likes of The Undertaker and Kane. Jake “The Snake” Roberts was the first of his king; a true master of his craft and one of the greatest wrestlers from the WWE and its golden days, but while he was succeeding in the ring, Roberts was falling apart outside the squared circle, using various combinations of drugs and alcohol to send his life into a downward, out of control spiral that is hopefully under control, today.
Pick Your Poison chronicles his disturbing life in and out of the ring and it is definitely a story that had to be told. Thankfully, unlike the Self Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior, this DVD mirrors the storytelling on titles for Bret Hart and LOD and allows Roberts, himself, to discuss his life so we see exactly what was going on in his head during the roller coaster lifestyle he led through much of his career. And while LOD and Bret Hart told some sad stories, this particular DVD is just downright depressing and disturbing to watch. My friend Mike and I were watching and as Jake’s very depressing childhood was discussed, he just turned to me and said, “When do we get to the wrestling? This stuff is too sad to watch.” The stories Jake tells about his upbringing, especially his relationship with his father just make you shake your head. You almost understand hoe he turned up the way he did, but to his credit, Jake Roberts did find a way to keep his life from becoming a total disaster. Roberts followed in his dad’s footsteps and became a wrestler; a very successful wrestler.
Roberts first heated up the Mid-Atlantic scene (matches are included, including one where Roberts teams up with Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat) and actually turned down an offer from Vince McMahon to join the WWF back when McMahon was taking over the entire market. Roberts stuck it out in the territories where he created the piledriver-like move everyone knows as the DDT. Roberts tells an interesting story about how it was created, how dangerous it is and how it revolutionized the sport. Even today, no one, but Arn Anderson has made the move look as real and painful as Roberts did in his heyday. It was a move that led to Roberts eventually going to the WWF, the federation where he did eventually shine and become a household name. It was here that he heated things up in what was an inevitable feud with Steamboat. There is a great story here about how Roberts hit Steamboat with a DDT on the concrete and really knocked him out. Roberts was a heel, but he didn’t stay that way for long.
Utilizing the gift that Roberts possessed for working the mic, the WWE created the Snake Pit, an interview show like Piper’s Pit where Roberts would get under the skin of wrestlers and feuds would be born. Honky Tonk Man had just turned heel. Roberts has the story slightly wrong, believing their feud was the first time two wrestlers made about face directions in their career; from face to heel and vice versa. HTM was definitely bad at the time he attacked Roberts with a guitar (another interesting story here about the legitimacy of the guitar shot), because he was managed by Jimmy Hart, and this attack cemented Roberts’ face turn. After that, there was no way you could turn Roberts bad. Fans loved him.
Innovative storylines involving Rick Rude hitting on Roberts’ real life wife, a great feud with Ted Dibiase that involved an awesome storyline leading to Big Bossman’s face turn and even a major push from a feud with Andre The Giant, who really made Roberts look like a force to be reckoned with, thanks to a “fear of snakes.” When you are allowed to get over on Andre the Giant, it was almost the equivalent of winning a world title. Things only got stale when Roberts ran out of feuds, resulting in a battle with Earthquake where the large man killed Damian, squashing the pet snake with his finisher and then grilling snake burgers on the following week’s program. Roberts needed a change, resulting in the perfect pairing with the Undertaker; and a feud that never got off the ground with The Ultimate Warrior, which would have catapulted Roberts into title contention. An eventual smartly booked feud with the Undertaker, which involved a backstage story we never knew about, resulted in Roberts leaving the WWE, heading to WCW for a failed feud with Sting and into retirement.
The DVD discusses his first big run in quite some detail, but really focusing on the sordid past with drugs, using friends and colleagues to echo Roberts’ statements and given the, validity. Even WWE Spanish-broadcast announcer Hugo Savonovich is featured discussing some twisted tales that made me wonder how Roberts was still alive today. In fact, Roberts was struggling so badly with his family life and his addictions that he actually became upset when other wrestlers passed away from drugs and alcohol; not because he was sad to see them go, but because he was jealous that he was still alive. But Roberts trudged, coming back to wrestling and having even stranger stories to tell about his life, including one bizarre incident involving animal cruelty, of which Roberts was falsely accused of.
In the WWE, Roberts’ turn to religion led to a feud with Jerry “The King” Lawler that used his alcoholism as fuel for the fire. Pay attention to this story, because there is so much I didn’t know that went on behind the scenes that shocked me. Roberts’ career had caught fire again and he even made the finals of the King of the Ring tournament where he lost to Stone Cold Steve Austin, resulting in Austin spouting off his famous Austin 3:16 line that catapulted his career into the stratosphere. He owes Roberts a lot for the success he had. There is even an ECW appearance that makes it on the DVD along with a recent appearance on Raw, showing viewers how Roberts is just as much a master on the mic as he has always been. Vince McMahon himself still sees something in Roberts; someone who has a lot to offer the future of this business…as long as he stays clean and sober. Maybe in the future, Roberts will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. If there is any wrestler who deserves it, it’s Jake “The Snake” Roberts.
This is a great DVD and really well produced; just expertly put together. There are so many great memories, so many stories viewers never knew, and so many lessons to be learned. Extras include discussions on a Hulk Hogan/Jake Roberts feud, working with the Dynamite Kid, how he became “The Snake,” his relationship with children and others; great matches against such wrestlers as Ronnie Garvin, Lanny Poffo, Sting, Steve Austin and more and some great vignettes and Snake Pit moments. This is a must-buy DVD; for viewers to view a master wrestler and performer and to see how the price of fame can take its toll on even the most stoic looking personalities in the business. It’s not all glitz and glamour. Jake Roberts’ story is one that has to be seen. Wrestling fans – watch and enjoy. Parents – watch with your children, explain it to them and let Roberts’ life have even more meaning than it had in the ring.
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