Tuesday, March 6, 2007

WCW: Jake "The Snake" Roberts, Part 5

His single WCW pay-per-view match was against Sting at Halloween Havoc in 1992, after picking their match via a wheel, which was inspired by the movie Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. There was a series of gimmick matches on the wheel, but because the wheel wasn't gimmicked, it landed on what many pundits believed was the worst option - The Coal Miner's Glove Match. However, it was the company's top-selling PPV for several years, but Jake soon left WCW after his wife gave him an ultimatum to either focus on his career or on his family. The couple would divorce not long afterwards.

Jake returned to the WWF at the Royal Rumble in 1996, as a Bible-preaching face (his new snake was named “Revelations”). Roberts claimed to be a changed man who regretted his past, although some in the industry felt he was holding religious seminars as a way to make money rather than out of genuine faith.

Roberts was pushed as a "Cinderella story" and faced Steve Austin in the final match of the King of the Ring tournament. Austin won, and as Roberts was helped to the back, Austin mocked the Snake's recital of the biblical passage John 3:16, saying "Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!". King of the Ring 96 was the Stone Cold Steve Austin story, and "Austin 3:16" became a catchphrase that helped propel Austin to the top of the WWF and pro wrestling for the next three years.

Jake feuded with Jerry "The King" Lawler, who went to great lengths to ridicule Jake's past bouts against alcoholism. Later, Roberts and Lawler both said this angle was uncomfortable for them; at one point Lawler spat real whiskey at Roberts.

Roberts was fired from the WWF in 1997 for failing to show up for work during a series of house shows, as a result of an ongoing lapse in his sobriety. He competed briefly in Mexico, where he was shaved bald by Konnan, and began appearing in the independent circuit in the U.S. and Great Britain, largely out of the view of most wrestling fans.

Jake got a high amount of Internet buzz in 1999 as a candidate to be The Undertaker's 'Higher Power'. When Vince McMahon was revealed to be the one, he specifically cited on the air the speculation over Roberts.

1999 featured two notorious incidents showcasing the depths that Roberts' drug and alcohol addiction had sunk to.

Jake was unflatteringly featured in the wrestling documentary Beyond the Mat. Throughout the film he made numerous confessions about his tragic past, including the murder of his sister and the collapse of his marriage. Amongst the more disturbing moments was Roberts reportedly smoking crack in a hotel room after a reunion with his daughter Brandy, though the act is not shown on camera. In 2005, Jake, along with others, heavily criticized the film for showing him in a negative light, complaining that the depiction of him was "not the real Jake Roberts". Roberts also claimed that director Barry Blaustein and Terry Funk lied to him about the aims of the film, telling him it was a television special on the effects of drug and alcohol abuse

Also in 1999, at a Independent PPV show entitled Heroes of Wrestling, Jake cut a rambling, incoherent promo in which he heavily slurred his words. Minutes later, he staggered toward the ring, apparently drunk, for an awkward match with Jim Neidhart, at one point even asking a hesitant female fan at ringside to fondle his pectoral muscles. During the match, when Jake's snake wriggled free from the bag, he waved the snake toward the audience while it was protruding from his crotch.

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