Clean and sober for the last four years, retired professional wrestler Jake “The Snake” Roberts, who was on the brink of death before friend and former protégé Diamond Dallas Page put him on a path to recovery, is now sharing his story of redemption with his fans. On March 29, Roberts will bring his UnSpoken Word tour to the Improv Comedy Club to talk to the audience about his career in the ring and the demons he has had to defeat to survive an unstable life. Many of his past problems have been detailed in the documentaries Beyond the Mat (1999) and last year’s The Resurrection of Jake the Snake Roberts.
During a phone interview with the Current last week, Roberts, 60, spoke about what has motivated him to tell his story on stage, suffering through what he calls his “darkest hours,” and reveals something about his relationship with snakes his fans might not believe since he carried one to the wrestling ring for over 20 years.
Talk about the UnSpoken Word tour. I’m assuming it’s less stand-up comedy and more storytelling, yes?
Yeah, it’s storytelling. I’m taking a lap down memory lane, man. I talk about funny and crazy stuff that happened on the road and in the locker room and in the ring, too. There was always something funny going on. There were so many characters I worked with – Hacksaw Jim Duggan, the Macho Man, Rick Rude. I’m just talking about how it all happened. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
What inspired you to want to go on stage in the first place?
I saw Mick Foley (“Mankind”) was doing it. He was doing more of a stand-up thing. You sit around and tell stories and everyone enjoys them. For some reason, I have a knack at storytelling. I’ve always done well with interviews and things like that. People seem to be drawn to it. I know that fans really want to know what goes on outside the scope of what they see. They want to know the ins and outs.
Well, you have plenty of fans. I don’t follow wrestling anymore like when I was a kid, but you were easily my favorite wrestler growing up.
Oh, cool, man. That’s another thing. This is all about reconnecting with the fans. Over the last few years I’ve cleaned my act up. It’s a brand new world for me. I’m really enjoying life. It’s great to get a chance to go back around and thank the fans for supporting me all those years. I think wrestling fans are the best on the planet, no doubt. We’ll be doing a Q&A to give fans some answers to things they want to ask me. Whatever people want, we’re going to give it to them.
Your past drug and alcohol addictions have been well documented. How much do you actually go into that part of your life during this show?
I do take about 15 minutes or so and talk about drug and alcohol addiction. I feel drawn to do that. I know there are a lot of people out there suffering as much as I was. Maybe they just need to hear it from somebody like me to get them over the hump and do something about it.
Last year’s documentary The Resurrection of Jake the Snake Roberts really reveals the demons you were fighting during your addiction. What did you think of the final film?
It’s painful to watch. Nobody wants to see themselves in their darkest hours, looking like that and feeling like that and remembering how hopeless you were. For so many years I was so desperate, not knowing what I wanted or what to do next. Looking back, I can’t figure out why I got like that and how I let myself go. But I’m a different person now, so it is hard to figure out. My life is so grand, I can’t explain it. I’ve got a book coming out in the next few months and a few other things in the works. I’m a busy old dog.
Is it therapeutic to go on stage and talk about your life?
Absolutely! It make the tough days a little easier to swallow. The one thing I learned when I was an alcohol and drug addict is that you hide things. All they do is fester and wind up causing you a lot of problems. But if you expose it to the light, bring it forward, talk about it, seek advice and thoughts from others, it really does help.
You were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2014. I just recently saw the video of your speech and how emotional of a night it was for everyone. What did it mean to get that kind of reception that evening and that distinction as a wrestler?
Oh, man, I still wake up sometimes and wonder if that really did happen. It still amazes me that I was able to come back from where I was and be taken in by the Hall of Fame. I had said some horrible things about the WWF/WWE and [WWE owner] Vince McMahon in particular. A lot of that was me just lashing out and wanting to blame somebody for the horrible mess I was in. They forgave me for all that. It was mighty big on their part to do that. So, yeah, getting up on stage and having my grandson there with me was great. He’s my hero.
What kind of grandpa is Jake the Snake?
The best, man. I am the coolest grandpa ever, man. How many grandfathers do you know with the name “the Snake?”
Do you have a pet snake now?
I don’t, man. I don’t like snakes. I never did. It just goes to show what a performer and liar I was.
I know you recently moved to Las Vegas. Is that a good environment for you?
Yeah, I mean, you can find trouble anywhere. I’ve been here three months and I have yet to go down to the strip. I don’t need anything down there. It’s not about the environment. It’s about the person and the choices you make. Right now, man, drinking and drugging is the farthest thing from my mind. Had I known that getting sober was this much fun, I would’ve done it sooner.When is the last time you gave someone a DDT (Roberts’ signature wrestling move)?
Oh, it’s been a while, bud. It’s been a couple of years. I just had hip surgery about three months ago, so I don’t know if I’ll be DDTing anybody anytime soon.
Donald Trump wrestled a few years ago in the WWE. Maybe him?
You know, after watching that crap they put on television, the last [Republican] debate, I’m ashamed to say those are our candidates. The way those men acted and held themselves and the way they tried to get their points across, oh my God. This is one horserace I think a jackass may win.