Greatest Wrestlers Of The WrestleMania Era: #19 – Jake “The Snake” Roberts

Other than the piledriver, perhaps no other move during the WrestleMania era has been as feared as the DDT. It’s creator was equally intimidating. Jake “The Snake” Roberts had something. Paul Heyman called it an “intangible”. Jake “The Snake” Roberts completely changed the way that wrestlers did interviews. Rather than scream and holler at the camera and make threats, the way the majority of wrestling promos worked for decades, Jake spoke in a very calm and monotone matter and delivered cerebral and at times, frightening, promos. Backed by a strangely nightmarish, yet invigorating, charisma, Jake put a stranglehold on the audience’s mind like no other. Other than that, Jake will always be remembered for carrying a giant snake to the ring in a sack to intimidate his opponents.

Jake’s promo from Wrestlemania VI to Ted Dibiase, a man he feuded with for nearly a year:

Jake’s WWF run was filled with some of wrestling’s most brutal moments. His first feud with Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat took a dangerous turn when Jake DDT’d Ricky on the concrete floor and cracked his head like a coconut. Jake legitimately knocked Ricky out cold. Then a short while later, Honky Tonk Man cracked Jake in the side of the head with a guitar to build up a match for Wrestlemania III. The plan was for Honky to hit Jake with a worked “trick” guitar, but somebody wound up making a mistake and replacing it with a real guitar, causing a concussion in Robert’s head that led to his pain pill addiction. After this, Jake became a wildly popular babyface and began to battle heels such as Ted Dibiase, Bad News Brown, and an awesome feud with “Ravishing” Rick Rude after Rude hit on Jake’s real life wife Cheryl who was in the front row.

A few years later on an episode of WWF Superstars, Jake’s snake Damien was literally “squashed” by Earthquake. This was the first time I’d ever seen the WWF do an angle where an animal was killed, but not the last (in 1999, The Big Boss Man tricked Al Snow into eating his own dog). This left quite a lasting memory on me when I was seven. Soon after, Jake turned heel and became one of the most despicable and vile villains of the early 90s. He aligned himself with the Undertaker and began a feud with Randy Savage which became so memorable that people who don’t even watch wrestling remember it vividly for two reasons: #1 – it was the FIRST TIME I can remember WWF doing a man-on-woman violence angle (Jake slapped Randy’s wife Elizabeth in the face), and #2 – it was the FIRST TIME we saw an animal attack a wrestler, as Jake had his cobra lunge into Randy’s arm on WWF Superstars in an angle that was quite frankly – unforgettable. Jake was always involved in the darkest angles the WWF could make.

Jake squashes a jobber, followed by the famous snake-bite angle with Randy Savage:

Jake was ready to take a job as an agent by the time 1992 rolled around. But when the position was no longer available, Jake decided his first WWF run was over. He put over the Undertaker at Wrestlemania (Taker kicked out of the DDT, which almost nobody did) and headed down south to WCW. After a VERY brief run in WCW where he feuded with their top superstar, Sting, he returned to the WWF in 1995 for his second run. This time, Jake was promoted as a changed man, a man who found religion and was able to kill his vices. This will most be remembered for his feud with Jerry “The King” Lawler who poked fun at Jake’s alcoholism, and for being the catalyst for the creation of “Austin 3:16” at the 1996 King of the Ring after losing in the finals to Steve Austin. After this run, Jake made a number of sporatic appearances for WWE, TNA, and a number of independent promotions. He also was one of the focus points on the 1999 Beyond The Mat documentary.

Jake Roberts vs. Randy Savage from Saturday Night’s Main Event – The Blowoff to their feud:

Jake’s personal life growing up and well into his adult years is one of the most bizarre, sad, and downright repulsive stories of anybody I’ve ever heard. He’s the son of the legendary Grizzly Smith, and if you’ve seen the Jake “The Snake” Roberts: Pick Your Poison DVD that WWE released a few years ago, you’d know that he was an unsavory character to say the very least. Well unfortunately this carried into Jake’s own life as his substance abuse and narcotic issues have always been the cause for his pain. It cost him several jobs, his wife, and his children. Jake still battles these demons to this day. Jake’s legacy will always be that of a sharp visionary and one of the best minds for the wrestling business. It’s too bad because he could’ve done so much more…

Defining Match Of The WrestleMania Era: Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin at 1996 King Of The Ring

My choice for Jake’s most defining match of the Wrestlemania Era would have to be his match where he put over Stone Cold Steve Austin in the 1996 King of the Ring PLUS the post match promo. Why? It was the birth of the biggest star ever and a change in the scope of wrestling. It all led back to this moment. The match isn’t the best of Jake’s career, but it’s probably got the most impact.

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One Comment

  1. Jake Roberts DDT. In a list where most over finishers get listed has to make the top 5 or the list fails.

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