Born Aurelian Smith, Jr., Jake “The Snake” Roberts is the son of wrestler Aurelian “Grizzly” Smith. He is also the half-brother of professional wrestlers Sam Houston (Michael Smith) and Rockin’ Robin (Robin Denise Smith) who was the WWE (then WWF) Women’s Champion when all three wrestled for the professional wrestling organization in the late 1980s. [Ed. note: Rockin’ Robin was the last woman to hold that title until it was retired in 1990. Since then the belt has been reactivated and retired again on and off until 2010 when it was unified with the WWE Divas Championship belt]
Well regarded as one of the most professional of professional wrestlers of all time Jake “The Snake” Roberts has been praised for being a great worker in the ring by the likes of Ted DiBiase, the late Bad News Brown, and the late Randy “Macho Man Savage”, particularly noting his wrestling ring psychology. Roberts knows and understands the business and art of professional wrestling better than most. He can work the microphone with the best of them, he knows how to manipulate the crowd, he knows how to develop a good storyline or wrestling card, and he knows how to wrestle. He knows who is a good worker, how to treat people, and when a wrestler is a main event draw or not. Besides being a great wrestler, Roberts is one of the best bookers of wrestling. [A booker in professional wrestling is the person who recruits and hires wrestlers, sets up angles between wrestlers, determines the outcome of matches, plots ideas in advance, and schedules the events of a wrestling card] Jake “The Snake” Roberts is the one who convinced Vince McMahon to give Stone Cold Steve Austin his “push” (promote him for main events) and The Snake was the man who “jobbed” (lost the match to make the other guy look good) for Austin when Austin recited Austin 3:16 for the first time as an ad-lib. Without Austin, The WWE would have been in worse trouble than it was in the famed Monday Night Wars with the WCW under Ted Turner. The Snake is beyond a doubt one of the best minds and talents in the business.
What many people don’t know or may have forgotten, is that Roberts was an associate of Paul Ellering and The Road Warriors. Eventually Jake “The Snake” Roberts, the late Road Warrior Hawk, and Road Warrior Animal ended up calling themselves The Legion of Doom (LOD). Yep, The Snake was an original member of The LOD. In an interview with The Hannibal TV this past February, Mr. Roberts stated that: “Hawk’s the one who came up with the idea of ‘The Legion of Doom’ [be]cause he did such a great job imitating voices ….’meanwhile at The Halls of Justice’….we were stoned and doing silly sh*t on the road and thought “F*ck it, let’s do it”.” Incidentally, Mr. Roberts is great at mimicking voices himself .
So they got their name The Legion of Doom from the infamous crew of Saturday morning cartoon bad guys who gave the Super Friends a weekly 40 minutes of trouble. 40 minutes of trouble is exactly what they did to other wrestlers in the ring anyway, and Hulk Hogan got his name from a comic book character as well. As for the monicker “The Snake” Roberts got that from the late NFL quarterback Ken “The Snake” Stabler. Although a fan of the Oakland Raiders’ QB, ironically Roberts wasn’t too fond of a particular part of his wrestling persona. He hated snakes! He was terrified of them and jests that he still is. He is after all from Texas where there are a lot of poisonous snakes and he regrets coming up the idea when he was high. Being the consummate professional he pulled it off. He would slither into the ring and keep his 6 foot 6 frame low to the mat before the match started. He played his part extremely well but since he hated snakes, it wasn’t an easy gimmick for him to do so. He also wasn’t the only one who was not a fan of snakes. In a match with the late Randy “Macho Man” Savage, a de-venomed cobra was supposed to bite Savage in the match. Savage, an explosive warrior in the ring had power, speed, and high flying maneuvers. He was like a giant cat who was just as unpredictable inside the ring as he was outside the ring. A peculiar character, funny, professional, Savage is considered one of the best wrestlers of all time but his insecurities often got the best of him. He insisted that Roberts be bit by the cobra first to make sure that it would be safe for Savage to be bit by the reptile. Roberts thought he was joking but for the match to go on and in the end for Roberts to get paid, Roberts had to get bit by the snake. So he did as Savage requested and got bit by the cobra himself. In Snake’s career, he’s also had to show representatives of organizations for humane treatment of animals and reptiles that the creature wasn’t hurt before and after matches even though he himself would be bruised and banged up. As a professional wrestler you stress and worry about getting injured and not injuring your opponent; they don’t have union benefits and they have to get their own healthcare. Roberts had the additional stress of not getting the snake injured which was often not even his snake!
Unjustly, The Snake never won a championship title in the former WWF. It would have meant more money for him and his family but that didn’t mean that he wasn’t a star. He was a star. A super star. The WWE Hall of Famer was one of the few wrestlers who did not need a championship title and unfortunately the promoters knew that. Roberts was supposed to be a “heel” in the WWE. The bad guy. He was a thinking man’s wrestler. He was the closest wrestler to the late legend Nick Bockwinkel that wrestling had. A devious but articulate, eloquent speaker who could take you to task. The WWE knew this and wisely replaced Piper’s Pit with The Snake Pit (when the late icon “Rowdy” Roddy Piper temporarily retired) . In the WWE, Savage and Hulk Hogan may have been the “baby faces”,the ‘good guys’, when Roberts was there and the fans loved them but when it came to fighting Roberts, the fans cheered for Roberts in his confrontations with these two good guys. In an angle where Roberts slapped his finishing move on Hulk Hogan, the deadly “DDT”, the fans cheered for Roberts’ DDT and not Hogan long after Snake left Hogan on the floor. The feud with the champ that was supposed to make Roberts a lot of money, it never happened. The public loved Roberts and his days as a “heel” were soon over.
The 1999 documentary Beyond The Mat portrayed Mr. Roberts negatively. He dismisses it and being a Christian he forgives those who showed him in a bad light. He is human after all and like the rest of us he has had bad times in his life. He has however had his unfair share of tragedy from his childhood to his adulthood. His 18 year old sister was kidnapped and murdered by her husband’s ex-wife. Her husband was 35 years her senior. He suffered a severe injury during a feud with The Honky Tonk Man thanks to the wrong prop guitar. He’s fought addiction with alcohol, pills, and heavy drugs. Roberts has had two failed marriages. He’s had strained relationships with his daughter from his first marriage and with his father “Grizzly” Smith (according to Roberts his father raped his mother when she was 12 while he was dating her mother and that’s how he was conceived). He’s been snaked (no pun intended) by promoters in terms of position and pay. He’s been in jail, he’s been in and out of rehab. The man did not have it easy folks. In 2008, he completed drug rehab which was paid for with the help of the WWE but fell again to his demons. In 2012 things started to change for Roberts. “Diamond” Dallas Page helped Roberts with yoga when Roberts found himself addicted again. (Page helped Roberts because Roberts helped train Page; there is some loyalty in wrestling after all) The Snake has reconnected with his children and his grandchildren. The proud grandfather of 10, he lost 80 pounds in three years through exercise, yoga, and eating right thanks to his faith, AA meetings, and Page. Roberts has fought and beaten cancer and he’s seen two of his grandchildren beat their own odds and live, praising them as his heroes when he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2014. They were born just over one pound yet they fought for life and he did too. You can’t pin this family down for the count! His finishing move, the DDT, was called “the coolest maneuver of all-time” by the WWE which says a lot because this organization has seen a lot of cool moves by wrestlers in its history.
A new and critically acclaimed documentary called The Resurrection of Jake The Snake Roberts is out on DVD about this incredible survivor. Presently he is on tour doing stand up comedy, sharing stories about wrestlers like Andre The Giant, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, and Macho Man Savage. He is scheduled to perform stand up on his 61st birthday at Flappers Comedy Club in California.
In the summer of 2016, you can see Jake “The Snake” Roberts in a film called The Bet. Fellow professional wrestlers Tommy Dreamer, “Diamond” Dallas Page and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper are in this comedy, which sadly marks Piper’s final film appearance who died last year from cardiac arrest due to a blood clot. The Snake has a book coming out soon and has hinted he may appear at Great North American Wrestling in the near future. Until then, you can meet Jake “The Snake” Roberts himself at the Rhode Island Comic Con which is scheduled from November 11th-13th (go to www.ricomiccon.com for details). You can follow Jake “The Snake” Roberts on his Twitter @JakeSnakeDDT, on his Facebook page, and on his website www.jakethesnakeroberts.com where you can order his documentary or you can catch it on Amazon, iTunes, and GooglePlay.
Through all of this the actor, the entertainer, the motivational speaker, remains a semi-retired professional wrestler and why not; he was born into it. The Hall of Famer is one of the best of all time. He knows everything about the business and he knows it all too well. It’s in his blood. It runs through his veins, kind of like venom when a snake bites you.