The Tragic Story of Jake The Snake



The Tragic Story of Jake The Snake

VOICE OVER: Ashley Bowman WRITTEN BY: George Pacheco
The world of professional wrestling is, sadly, one where there are just as many stories of tragedy as there are triumphs. Today we're going to be looking at The Tragic Story of Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Our video will include his dramatic rise to wrestling superstardom, his equally impressive fall, and ultimately, his current path to redemption.

The Tragic Story of Jake “The Snake” Roberts

The world of professional wrestling is, sadly, one where there are just as many stories of tragedy as there are triumphs. This has been documented brilliantly on shows such as Vice’s “Dark Side of the Ring,” but what about those unique wrestling personalities that are so huge, that they can somehow come out the other side?

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re going to be looking at The Tragic Story of Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Actually, we need to start off first with a not-so-massive spoiler: Jake “The Snake” is actually doing quite well, thank you very much. He’s currently working for All Elite Wrestling in a managerial position, and is able to look back at a career that’s influenced countless professional wrestlers over the years.

It wasn’t always this way, of course, because the man born Aurelian Smith, Jr. is actually the survivor of what was, by all accounts, a tremendously traumatic childhood. This is due largely to the looming presence of Jake’s father, Aurelian, Sir. who was also a professional wrestler, performing most famously under the name Grizzly Smith. The Smiths were a wrestling family, although most fans at home were barely aware that Jake, his brother Sam Houston and sister Rockin’ Robin held familial ties.

Grizzly Smith was staunchly protective of the industry’s “kayfabe” code of keeping the fictional storylines as real as possible, and, according to Jake, did everything he could to sabotage Roberts’ entry into the business. Aurelian, Sr., by his own admission, came from an abusive household, and tragically passed that tradition on to his own kids, often playing them against one another for his affection. Robin, along with the rest of her family, were interviewed for the “Dark Side of the Ring” episode titled “In the Shadow of Grizzly Smith,” and she detailed some fairly harrowing memories of her childhood. These included abuse at the hands of her father, as well as evidence she claimed backed up long-standing rumors of Grizzly Smith being a predator.

“Dark Side of the Ring” wasn’t the only time Smith's homelife was brought up for a documentary, as Jake himself had been the subject of many over the years. The most infamous of these was probably “Beyond the Mat” from 1999, where Jake revealed not only his strained relationship with Aurelian, Sr. (who appeared on camera with his son), but also his own personal demons and struggles with substance abuse. “Beyond the Mat” showcased some of the darkest moments of Jake’s personal life, balancing “The Snake’s” highlights in the ring, with the crashing lows that came after his profile peaked in the WWE.

We need to backtrack a bit now, specifically to reference just how great Jake “The Snake” Roberts was during his time in the WWF/WWE. Roberts had cut his teeth in the United States’ “territory” system for different promotions, before all of his hard work developing his personality and character led him to work for Vince McMahon.

Jake “The Snake” was never going to fit into McMahon’s preferred mold of physically large, dominant male wrestlers, so he had to find a different angle. Jake was an expert talker, and developed a speaking style during his promos that was positively chilling. His personality wasn’t blustery or full of bravado, but instead was one that spoke softly, with a menace that was absolutely chilling. Jake wasn’t just vocalizing empty threats, but rather using his voice in a way that was getting him over with the fans on a psychological level.

This made it easier for Roberts’ character to eventually turn “babyface,” or “good guy,” despite the fact that his dark and foreboding promo style made him sound like anyone for whom the fans would want to cheer. This isn’t an insult, by any means, because the WWF fans actually found Jake to be the coolest, from his killer opening theme music, to his purposeful walk, steely stare and, of course, his pet python, Damien. Meanwhile, his work in the ring didn’t rely on power moves, but agility and counterattacks that actually made sense within the fictional context of a scripted match. Plus, Roberts had the ultimate equalizer at his disposal: his DDT finisher, which at the time was one of the most feared maneuvers in the wrestling business.

After leaving WWE in the early nineties, he returned to work for Vince just as the company’s New Generation era was about to transition into the now infamous Attitude Era. Jake’s new character was a Christian Conservative, and at this point Roberts’ struggle with substance abuse was becoming more well known, to the point where WWE referenced it during Roberts’ feud with Jerry “The King” Lawler.

Jake’s “rock bottom” appearances on the independent circuit, (such as the “Heroes of Wrestling” event in 1999, where a visibly intoxicated Roberts was in no shape to compete) eventually led to a redemption story that was documented in yet another film, “The Resurrection of Jake the Snake,” in 2015. The film details Roberts’ relationship with fellow wrestler “Diamond” Dallas Page, whose exercise and lifestyle program, DDP Yoga, is credited with saving Jake’s life. The film doesn’t shy away from the hard work Jake put in to stick with the program, remain accountable for his actions, and eventually make his way to a healthier place in his life.

Jake “The Snake” getting all of his mental and physical health in order is all the more impressive, given all of the obstacles in his way. Roberts stated in “Beyond the Mat” how he made it his mission to become a better wrestler than his father, if for no reason other than spite. And, although most of Jake’s fans will likely agree that this mission was a success, the story of “The Snake” is really about much more than just professional wrestling.

It's a story about Aurelian Smith, Jr. Of Jake “The Snake” Roberts. A son, a father and a brother. It’s a tale about trauma, tragedy and redemption. It’s not perfect, wrapped up in a bow, but a work in progress. Professional wrestling was lucky to have Jake “The Snake” Roberts then, as an entertainer, and it’s lucky to have him now, as a source of knowledge. More than anything, however, the story of Jake Roberts is one of survival.