Leturgey Musings and Goings On

These are some of my writings...from events going on in the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance and elsewhere, to observations from the rest of my decidely unformulaic life.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Jake "The Snake" RobertsSummer 2007

Aurelian Jake Smith Jr. answered the question with ease. It came too quickly and too easily. The answer may have already “scripted,” but for a split second, it was also sincere and honest.
“The toughest opponent I ever had was in the mirror,” was the paraphrased answer in the interview segment. It was hard to make out every word Jake “The Snake” Roberts uttered in the middle of the ring. From time to time is was difficult to recognize what he was saying into a WWF microphone in the 1980’s, when he was at the top of his professional game. This was the second day of summer, 2007. Jake was not at the top of his game.
Much has been made of Jake Roberts’ private demons. No long-time fan of the industry is unfamiliar with Beyond the Mat, the 1999 documentary that depicted Roberts whizzing into a garbage can and allegedly smoking an illegal substance after a heartbreaking meeting with his daughter. That same year, Jake cut what was described as a rambling, incoherent promo on an Independent PPV event. He followed that up by staggering to the ring and flailing away at Jim Neidhart.
Since that time, Jake Roberts has reportedly found religion, and then lost it again. From time to time, Jake would even show up on religion-based television programs like the suburban Pittsburgh “His Place” diner and talk about faith with his wife at the time. It would be too easy to bury Jake “The Snake” Roberts with negative thoughts and ideas today. The fact of the matter is Jake “The Snake” Roberts needs the best wishes and hopes and prayers all of his fans more in the summer of 2007 than ever before.
I personally wasn’t the greatest fan of the “heel” Jake in the 1980’s, but I always understood why others flocked to him. His “mat psychology” was amongst the best of all time. Perhaps he was able to funnel that personal tragedy into those intense promos and historic battles. Jake was in Main Events for a reason. He was good, one of the finest. In the past decade, rumors of drug use and alcoholism have drastically changed Jake’s legacy, conceivably increasing his legend. Really, who would even notice Jake anymore if he were a Bible-thumping babyface? Another Jesus-inspired, now-converted heel from the same era like Ted DiBiase doesn’t get nearly the Internet ink. Instead, promoters all over the country don’t know what they’re getting when they put cash into Roberts’ hands.
During the second day of summer 2007, about 150 fans looked for Jake Roberts at intermission. Jake, wearing a black “Size Matters” T-shirt was under the weather and wasn’t coming out. The fans were polite and accepting of the merchandise table of miscellaneous trinkets and assorted rubbish. Some of the Indy workers sold their own T-shirts and signed autographs for fans. One middle-aged fan with questionable mental capacities repeatedly pleaded to see Jake. He would have to wait for the in-ring action just like everyone else, promoters included.
From time to time Jake, who remains a good 6’6” or more, would wander from the Men’s Room back to the locker room area. Workers had trouble understanding his growl. One expert wrestler would later say that he was hurt, not from the bumps or the awkward suplex that his opponent didn’t know how to execute, but in the chest. He pointed to his heart. Jake cut a fan-friendly promo later in the night. The standing-room-only throng was delirious in delight of seeing their hero. One athlete’s mother made an hour-and-a-half drive with her son just to see the wrestler she cheered 20 years ago.
In the Main Event, Jake seemingly came alive. The best he could actually. He called the match as he went. For a battered and overly paunchy (he did expose his belly to some fans at ringside) 52 years of age (going on 62), Roberts did pull off some spots and the crowd was electrified just to see him. When tagged in to the six-man tag contest, Jake spent most of his time on his back. There was a comical moment in which heels and his babyface tag partners pulled at Jake like a wishbone. The fans howled in laughter and approval. While rolling around on the mat, sinking into the corner, or being helped to his feet on the outside, Jake Roberts can still master the crowd. The DDT came out of nowhere, after a severe beat-down before and during the match. The recipient of the legendary move took it with aplomb and professionalism. For that moment it was 1987 all over again.
The fans knew Damian was coming out. The professional wrestler took the “snake bath” in classic fashion. His mother, who rode all that way, nearly teared up when she realized her son was in pretty elite company, under the boa constrictor. A minute or so later, she was again elated with Jake picked her out of the crowd for a gigantic hug. Jake smiled broadly whenever he was out amongst his fans. After the match he was also joyful, scribbling wildly on photographs at $10 a pop. He met with workers and took a few pictures, middle finger proudly extended, teeth grinning, with wild hair exploding.
Who knows what Jake did following the successful event. His handlers did their best to collect money as he sold the photographs. One worker helped him out of his snakeskin boots. It would have been easy to destroy Jake “the Snake” Roberts for not spending much time with all those fans who came far away to see him, or for not sharing legendary stories in the locker room with the guys who romanticized his famous feats. Most of their greetings were met with Tourettes-like vulgarities or simple Stone Mountain-quality slurred speech. They did perhaps learn about the darker side of professional wrestling and personal demons.
In the ring, Jake Roberts was exciting and entertaining. He has surrounded himself with a talented team that supports him with bookings, and they do their best to keep his legend at the top of everyone’s wrestling memory banks. I personally gave Jake money for a scribbled 8x10 featuring him being stretched out by Andre the Giant. I asked for a quick autograph, personalized for a friend. You can see the first letter of Dennis’ name and little else. I shook his hand and told Jake to “Take Care of Yourself.” It is a familiar parting phrase for me, sometimes lazy. However, I instantly meant it for Jake.
God Bless you Jake Roberts. Please, take care of yourself.


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