Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts dark past – wrestler’s descent into crack cocaine hell
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Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts was one of wrestling's biggest global superstars, but at the height of his fame in the 90s, his addiction to booze and drugs meant his career was firmly on the ropes.
The WWE Hall of Famer, who made his name competing in WWF and WCW, suddenly found himself in such a dark place that Roberts’ reputation was in freefall.
"I had life, but I poisoned it," revealed Roberts in the 2015 documentary The Resurrection of Jake the Snake, which mapped the story of how he was trying to battle his demons in order to reclaim his life and also his family.
By then, the legendary wrestler was finding it hard to shake off his substance dependencies and WWE sent him to rehab three times.
Suddenly, one of the sport’s brightest box office stars was too hot to handle. Promoters didn't want anything to do with him and his own kids didn't speak to him.
“Nothing was right in my life. I was trying to die,” he said at the time.
The cracks started to show a decade earlier when the 1999 film, Beyond The Mat, exposed a disturbing side of him. As well as showing him smoking crack in a hotel room, it showed him stumbling to the ring at a wrestling show.
A furious Roberts said the film hurt his family, claiming it was “complete lies and ripoffs”.
The problems for Roberts continued. At a show in Ohio in 2008, Roberts was in such a bad way that it took him several attempts to even get his foot over the ring rope.
Once he was in the ring, he could barely move. At one point, he pulled out his penis and began waving it at fans.
It was all a far cry from his heyday when we would collide on the mat with fellow superstars such as Andre the Giant, Randy Savage and Ted DiBiase.
With his compelling showmanship, whispered threats on the microphone and use of a pet python called Damien, Roberts had a menacing but riveting presence in the ring.
He was also widely credited as the inventor of the classic DDT move where the opponent is put into a headlock and forced to dive forward onto their head.
Strong and technically skilled, he said his other problems could be traced back to childhood. He claimed to have been conceived in rape when his wrestler dad raped his mum, then a 12-year-old girl.
Roberts himself also alleged that he was the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of his own stepmother.
Roberts started drinking alcohol and at the age of 12, which is when he first tried the crack cocaine that he later became addicted to.
Speaking to Global News in 2018, he said of his drink and drug demons: “I survived it and I shouldn’t have. I tried to commit suicide several times, you know.”
Having beaten cancer and survived pneumonia, 65-year-old Roberts is now off the booze and drugs and keeps fit with a yoga regime. Unlike many of his troubled contemporaries, he’s still here to tell the tale.
His popularity with fans remains undiminished, with 322k Twitter followers and 199k on Instagram.
Roberts refers to himself on his social media counts as a ‘writer, creator and motivational speaker’ and he has toured the US with his Dirty Details show – a mix of comedy and stories about his career inside and outside the ring.
He has also started a podcast and penned a book.
He told Sportskeeda that the book reveals what he was going through at the time and ‘how horribly hard it was’.
“At that time I was going 100 miles an hour, I was getting two or three days off every four or five months, I wrestled Ricky Steamboat 93 days straight. That's the way it was, man.
“If we get injured, we didn't take a day off, we kept going because we knew the guy we were wrestling was going to take care of it.
"I blew my pancreas against Andre (The Giant). It just exploded because he ran through my clothesline. I went down to the mat and separated my shoulder. I was just trying not to pass out. He reached down with one hand and jerked me by my arm to my feet. That's when I did pass out. (laughs) He held onto me in a bearhug till I came back to.
“We went ahead, finished that match and that was in Philadelphia in the afternoon and that night we wrestled in Scranton. That's why so many guys got into the drugs, just to keep going.”
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