I think I speak for a lot of wrestling fans when I say that we've seen far too many wrestlers suffer once their in-ring careers are over, and in some cases they die young, too.
It's the worst and most difficult thing about being a wrestling fan.
It pains us to see it happen because we feel like we know these larger-than-life characters, even though we're really just fans watching them on television. The bad stories get too much attention. That's how society is. Too many people kick others when they are down. That's not we're here for, though.
There are good stories.
That's why I'm here to tell you about the amazing story of wrestling legend Jake "The Snake" Roberts and the help he has received from his friend, fellow wrestling legend Diamond Dallas Page.
Before I get to the great news about Roberts, it needs to be stated that Roberts was a wrestler who made a lot of impact on wrestling in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He started in the World Wrestling Federation in 1986, and his main run there lasted until 1992. He was mostly a babyface during that run, but it was his heel work that made him stand out to me.
His promos were among the best in the business. They were so good that they legitimately scared the hell out of me when I was 11 or 12 years old. In recent years I can remember seeking out Roberts' promos because I remembered how much of an impact they made on me when I was a kid. Not surprisingly, they were as great as I remembered.
In the ring, Roberts was also a great storyteller. As a babyface, he always found a way to keep the fans emotionally invested in his matches and was great at making that heroic comeback. As a heel, he wrestled at a methodical pace, used mind games and found creative ways to get out of there with the victory no matter what he had to do.
What people remember most about his finishing career was his finishing move, the DDT. With his opponents head tucked under his arm, he would drive his other hand into the back of his opponent and send their head crashing into the mat below.
It's a move that lives on because so many wrestlers use variations of it, but there's no question that Roberts is considered to be the one who really made that move famous.
Here's a babyface promo from Roberts before his match at WrestleMania VI with Ted DiBiase. Listen to how he delivered the promo without raising his voice, yet he had such a masterful way of telling his story and getting his point across that it worked as well as any talker in the history of wrestling.
I also think WWE did a great job of shooting a close-up on his face as he talked, because his eyes made you fear him. He had mastered the art of the promo.
That was babyface Roberts. Here is the heel storyline that Roberts was most famous for: his snake biting the arm of Randy Savage. This was in the fall of 1991. I was 11 years old and Randy Savage was my favorite wrestler. Believe me when I tell you that this was the saddest day ever for this Savage fan, or at least it was up there with Randy's "retirement" earlier in the year.
Over 20 years later, it's still one of the better angles I've ever seen in the buildup to a match. Both guys were brilliant in the segment, but Roberts made me legitimately fear him when I was a kid. That's what the goal of a heel is.
I think it's pretty well known that the latter years of Roberts' career and his post-wrestling career have been a mess. It's not a secret, but we're not here to focus on the past. I want to focus on the present.
Let's fast forward to today. Roberts has made many strides in living a healthier, cleaner and most importantly, a happier life. While I'm not here to write the whole story, here's what you should know.
Jake Roberts is now 57 years old. In the summer of 2012 he weighed over 300 pounds. Cue Diamond Dallas Page, who is 56 years old and was trained to wrestle by Roberts when he was 35 years old, which was considered "old" in the wrestling business for somebody new. Considering DDP is a three-time WCW World Heavyweight Champion I'd say his career worked out very well for him.
On October 29, 2012, Roberts moved in with DDP. It was something they called an "Accountability Crib" in Atlanta, where Roberts would be held accountable for everything he did. No more drinking. No more illegal drugs. It was about helping him get on the right path so that he can enjoy his life.
With the help of DDP Yoga (more info at DDPYoga.com) as well as the guidance of DDP himself, Roberts is making a lot of progress.
It was the beginning of the process of helping Roberts deal with drugs and alcohol, while also helping him to maintain a better life. Here's the teaser trailer of "The Resurrection of Jake Roberts."
I think the most poignant words in that video are from Roberts himself: "I need a life. A life."
You can see that Roberts has made a lot of progress in that video. Here's a photo that offers even more proof of that.
That's Jake Roberts after losing 60 pounds over five months. Amazing!
Even though Roberts is on the right path, there is a physical issue that he has to deal with, too. Here's a video of Jake talking about how he needs to raise money in order for him to have shoulder surgery. His shoulder injury was limiting what he could do in his workouts. The surgery costs $9,200.
As a result of that, what DDP and Roberts's friends did was create an Indiegogo page where people could donate to help Jake get this shoulder surgery. It's not a case where you just spend money without giving anything back.
Among other things, you can have your name appear in the "Resurrection of Jake Roberts" documentary, get a DVD, an autograph, a t-shirt or a phone call, and for $1,000 you could spend some time with Jake and Dallas at the "Accountability Crib" home in Atlanta.
What's the total on the Indiegogo page after just five days? Over $20,000! Not only did they surpass the $9,200 goal they had set out to hit, but they had doubled it as well.
Here's a video of Jake and Dallas talking to Jake's daughter Brandy (he's a grandfather now, too) about this project, as well as the money they had raised in just the first 12 hours.
It's a moving video, but as usual Roberts was quick to bring humor to the situation by commenting: "I might as well get my tits done!" That was hilarious!
There was another comment from Roberts that really explained why it was so successful so quickly: "All those years—they must have really meant something." DDP agreed. They're right.
In the last two minutes of that video, Roberts looks into the camera to give another promo, except this time it wasn't for the company he worked for. This was from his heart, and it was a message to all those that have supported him through the years.
Putting Things in Perspective
This wasn't written because I was asked to do it. I've never met Jake Roberts or Dallas Page. I'm just a fan like anybody reading this right now. I'm a fan of anybody that gets in between those ropes to put their bodies on the line to entertain us because it's something they love to do. I have respect for the wrestling business and for everybody in it.
I want to share this story with my fellow wrestling fans around the world because Jake Roberts, like so many wrestlers before and after him, sacrificed a lot of things in life to entertain us. Of course he's made some mistakes, which he readily admits, but this is not a sad story anymore.
This story of Jake Roberts is one of success. It's about a father and grandfather wanting to be there to watch his family grow. It's about a friend like Diamond Dallas Page being there for his friend when he needed him the most. Roberts didn't have to do it. He wanted to do it. He was driven to turn his life around. Finally, after many twists and turns, Jake Roberts is on the right path.
I hope that one day Jake Roberts is inducted in the WWE Hall of Fame, because he deserves it. I hope that Dallas Page is the one to induct him. I hope that his family is there to see it.
Most importantly, I hope that Jake can tell us about the journey he's been on in his life, both in the ring and outside of it, because it's an amazing story. Fans need to know about it, and I think if he gets that Hall of Fame ring one day, then an even bigger audience will get the chance to know all about it, too.
To DDP, I commend you for helping your friend and mentor in a time of need. I have seen videos of your work with others to inspire them to live a better life. It's very admirable of you to do that and shows what kind of a man you really are. Thank you.
To Jake Roberts, I'll just say this: On behalf of all wrestling fans, we thank you for everything you gave us in your career, and I hope you don't forget how much the fans of the wrestling business truly care about you. Please stay strong and live your life the way you want to live it, surrounded by your friends and loved ones.
Once again, here's the Indiegogo page where you can donate to help Jake deal with his physical ailments, and you get something out of it, too, no matter how much you spend.
Thanks to this Newsday article for providing info for this article.
In the future I'll write about Jake Roberts again to update on his status, and I look forward to watching the documentary as well.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
John Canton is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. You can read more of his work at his website TJRWrestling.com along with his talented staff of writers. He also writes at LayfieldReport.com. You can follow John on Twitter @johnreport, too.