Photo Credits – WWE, Comeback Studios & AEW
There are few people that could have gone through what Aurelian Smith Jr., better known as Jake “The Snake” Roberts, went through in life and survived; let alone turning that trauma into a positive. Jake was a second generation performer with his father being Grizzly Smith but what the world didn’t know was the sick and twisted side of Grizzly. The world thought of him as this great wrestler and as a trusted right hand man to Bill Watts in Mid-South Wrestling and various other backstage roles for other promotions. However, he would physically and verbally abuse his children at home and as recently come to light on the excellent Vice TV series, Dark Side of the Ring, he would be involved with under age girls and one of those under age girls became Jake’s mother. He was sexually abused by his stepmother according to Jake. So it is no surprise that this childhood trauma would mess Jake’s head up and drive him to drugs and alcohol years later to numb the pain that no one knew he he had but that would almost cost him his life.
As part of the abuse that Jake suffered from his father, whether physical or verbal, Jake was drawn to the crazy world of professional wrestling and wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. Whether it was originally to gain his father’s approval or to simply to get his father to say he loved him and was proud of him, that was not the reaction he received. His father basically told him that he wasn’t good enough and he would amount to nothing. According to Jake that motivated him even more to not only do it, prove him wrong and be a bigger star and legend than his father ever was and personally I think he did just that.
The reason I’m writing this article is to look back on Jake’s tumultuous life and career and to drive home the point that fans should have more respect for what Jake overcame than they do. Jake stated in the Dark Side of the Ring that his father blackballed him early in his career using the influence with promoters to get him kicked off shows but Jake still ended up performing in Mid-South, Mid-Atlantic and Georgia Championship Wrestling, so if his father did attempt to get him black balled it didn’t work very well because these were all promotions with prominent TV coverage, which gave Jake much needed exposure to the audience.
This exposure caught the eye of Vince McMahon during his 80s expansion where he took the top stars from promotions and he had to have Jake Roberts. Vince wanted Jake to come to the ring with a Snake because it would work with the Jake The Snake Roberts name. So Jake began coming to the ring with a giant python in a bag named Damian. The other thing that Jake brought with him was a move that he ended up creating completely by accident prior to making it the the WWF, the DDT. In full disclosure there is some dispute that a Mexican wrestler named Black Gordma developed the move in the 1970s but I think the exposure Jake had on American TV is why he is often credited as the creator of the move since that’s when most people saw it delivered for the first time. The reason I say created by accident as Jake says he fell backwards trying to do another move.