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Jake “the Snake” Roberts on Andre the Giant, addiction, and his road to redemption

WWE

WWE

[Editor's note: Jake "the Snake" Roberts had to cancel his Valentine's Day show in Minneapolis. We'll keep you up to date on when it will be rescheduled.]

If you know anything about Jake “the Snake” Roberts, you know he’s lived one hell of a life.

The pro wrestling icon dazzled sold-out arenas all over the world in the ‘80s and ‘90s, doing battle with the likes of Andre the Giant, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, and Minnesota’s own “Ravishing” Rick Rude. But in his personal life, the Snake was wrestling with a much tougher opponent than any he’d ever met in the ring.

“Nobody grows up wanting to be an alcoholic or an addict,” Roberts says over the phone, his distinct growl still as impactful as it was 30 years ago. “Nobody wants that man. It’s embarrassing. And that’s why nobody talks about it. Instead, we try and hide it or bury it. I’m just in a place where I don’t have anything to hide.”

Years of tabloid fodder followed Roberts as his star began to fade, including intoxicated appearances at small-time wrestling events caught on camera, a character assassination in a pro wrestling documentary (1999’s Beyond the Mat), and a virtual blackballing from his former employer, the WWE.

All that would change when Jake connected with long-time friend and fellow pro wrestler Diamond Dallas Page, who brought Roberts under his tutelage and helped him get clean, get in shape, and reclaim his place in wrestling history. His journey was documented in the powerful documentary, The Resurrection of Jake the Snake, culminating in his induction into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2014.

Now back on top where he belongs, Roberts is heading to New Hope Cinema Grill as part of his Unspoken Word Tour, sharing tales from behind the curtain, in the ring, and life after wrestling.

“I talk about what happened in the back, on the road, in strip joints; all of the taboo stuff behind the scenes,” says Roberts. “This is the stuff nobody talks about but everybody wants to know.”

One such story includes a night when Roberts was tangling with the massive Andre the Giant, and the Giant decided to take some liberties in the ring.

“We’d do this spot where he’d crush me in the corner, but he’d always hold all of his weight up,” Roberts recalls. “That night, he let it slip and put all of his weight on me. I thought I was going to die. Then, while I’m trying to catch my breath, I feel this vibration, like the entire building is shaking, but it’s only in my chest. And the whole time Andre’s laughing, which is a big no-no in the ring, and the referee asks him why he’s laughing. Andre just says in his big thick accent, ‘I’m… farting.’”

Just because the show is recommended for mature audiences, doesn’t mean it’s all mature content.

In-between tales from the ring, Roberts also takes some time to open up about his addiction, and hopefully help others who are struggling.

“By the end man, I wasn’t even enjoying it. Drinking wasn’t fun for me,” he recalls. “So when people come up to me at shows and say that they’ve had problems with drugs and alcohol, I really understand it man. Nobody understands an addict like another addict, which is why I’ll always take the time to talk to anyone who might be struggling and needs help. It’s kind of funny, when I talk about my addiction and how it controlled me, I’ll see someone occasionally push their glass to the side and I think, ‘Alright, there’s one right there. Who else?’”

Chances are, if you’re a fan of Jake “the Snake” the wrestler coming into his show, you’re going to be an even bigger fan of Jake Roberts the man by the time it’s over. 

IF YOU GO:

Jake "the Snake" Roberts
Cinema Grill & Outtakes Bar
$25; $75 VIP
8 p.m. Tuesday, February 14