A month ago, Jake 'The Snake' Roberts embarked on the most daunting challenge of his career, to get back in shape and return to the ring at the ripe old age of 57.
The motivation for this unlikely comeback was a documentary, where he recently moved in with his old friend Diamond Dallas Page (DDP). Page would mentor him and teach him yoga, in what both hoped would be the ultimate feel good story to end his career on a high note.
That's what they were selling in their YouTube trailer released two weeks ago, prematurely entitled "The Resurrection of Jake 'The Snake' Roberts":
However, not mentioned in that sneak preview was how Roberts had already slipped up by appearing drunk at an independent wrestling event on Oct. 27th, leading to pessimism that he would screw up this last shot at redemption, just like he did all the rest.
Thankfully, there may now be cause for less jaded cynicism, after Roberts gave a seemingly brutally honest interview to Newsday.com, which is step one in rehabilitating his completely battered reputation.
Thanks to DDP's training regimen he's now able to walk a couple of miles and do outside chores, which would have been impossible weeks ago due to his chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and all the wear and tear on his body from 36 years of wrestling bumps and injuries, including a partly amputated big left toe which makes walking difficult. He's already lost about 40 pounds of weight too.
In the interview, Roberts no longer denied being intoxicated at the Coastal Wrestling Federation show, like he originally did immediately after the incident happened:
"But on the flight, when I got to the airport, I ate some oysters and I had two beers. And then I went to Friday’s and had some ribs and had another beer. And after that, to be brutally honest, I don’t remember a freakin’ thing. Because when you’re an alcoholic you get to the point where you have blackouts. I know some people that have had blackouts and missed four or five days of a life. And obviously, my body getting clean and trying to stop all this [garbage], it’s just those four beers, maybe -- I don’t know, I was on an airplane and I know they won’t let you have 10 damn drinks or anything like that. But I know I had some, and obviously it caused my brain to kick off and put me in blackout."
He may be understating the amount he had to drink (you'll see why in the next paragraph), but it's a positive sign that he owned up to his mistake, came clean that he really did mess up and embarrassed himself once again by turning up to a booking in no condition to wrestle even a short match.
Really, DDP and filmmaker Steve Yu are at least partly culpable in this unfortunate hiccup. It's absolutely gobsmacking that they originally allowed a well-known alcoholic in Roberts to drink while making the documentary, unless they cruelly thought the inevitable fall from grace would make for compelling television:
"Up until that point, it was agreed that Roberts could drink a maximum of four beers. But after this incident --Page and filmmaker Steve Yu have already released Page and Roberts' tumultuous meeting at the Atlanta airport on YouTube -- Roberts started going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings near the home. He also says he's going to take antabuse, a medication that will make him violently ill if he has any alcohol."
It's worth noting that Antabuse didn't stop Scott Hall from falling off the wagon when he briefly returned to the WWF. Of course, this confrontation between Roberts and DDP could all be an elaborate work by two of the biggest carnies in the business.
In fact, it may even be surprising if it wasn't, as other reality TV shows featuring wrestling stars have usually been softly scripted, most notably, Hogan Knows Best in 2005-2007. But that didn't stop the fictitious Hulk Hogan family squabbles bubbling to the surface for real after the series was cancelled.
Roberts has a very realistic goal from this wrestling return, perhaps just one last retirement match where he can be proud of his performance:
"It may just be one freakin’ match, man. I just know that I want desperately -- and my life does not depend on this, remember that -- to get myself back in the physical shape to where I can go out there and stand tall and perform at a level I feel acceptable in what I used to do. I will never be able to go out and perform at the level I was when I was 25 years old... But it does not stop me from wanting to go out there and be in shape instead of some fat 310-pound guy that blew up coming to the ring because I’ve got COPD. Well, a lot of my COPD comes from the fact that I was 310 pounds. Hey, I don’t care what you weigh, throw 50 or 60 pounds on your back and walk around the block and tell me how you feel."
We at Cageside Seats hopes he achieves this obtainable target and stays on the straight and narrow for good once he does so, it would be nice for this story to have a fairytale ending, after two decades of repeated false dawns and regular disappointments.
The Newsday article itself is worth taking the time to read in full Cagesiders, as it also includes candid comments about his belief in Christianity, his failed WWF run in 1996 and his screwed up and strained relationship with his late father Grizzly Smith, understandably so given that it is believed he raped his mother when she was 12 and also his sister Robin Smith, better known as the late 1980s WWF Women's Champion Rockin' Robin.