Throughout the years, professional wrestling has been viewed by most of this country as a non-sport. It has permeated popular culture time and time again, making names such as Hulk Hogan and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson household names. With Vince McMahon at it’s head, the WWF cum WWE has stumbled upon gold time and time again, and yet is still viewed by most of the world as low-brow.
Few recognize the themes in professional wrestling are the same as one might find in the greatest works of all time. From Greek Tragedy to Shakespeare, and all works in between, professional wrestling is rife with metaphor that seemingly go overlooked due to the costume it wears. Even the concept of wrestling itself can trace it’s evolution from the original productions of Shakespeare. From The Globe Theatre in London, where ‘theatre in the round’ was invented, melodrama evolved into the venues that we might go to today such as Madison Square Garden. In today’s combination of both stage and colosium, the Serf and Proletariat mix with the intellectually great and good, all caught up in the tempestral morality plays that unveil before their eyes.
Within the walls of The Acute Angle, myself and my team of research assistants will do our best every other week to show how Dan Brown can make millions on a piece of fiction that is as easy to digest as popcorn; yet, when a wrestler goes out of his way to be a part of an epic storyline rivaling Beowulf, the world cannot look passed the idea that he carries a bird down to the ring, screams ‘Huss!’, or any other of pieces of pomp that wrestlers have used in the past to bring themselves the fame and noteriety they crave.
Let us now look into the past of wrestling to one of it’s strongest stories. A man that began his career wearing the name and symbol of his own undoing.
Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts
The story of Jake Roberts is well documented, but few recognize that much like Jormangund of Norse Mythology, Roberts was in a holding pattern awaiting his own personal Ragnarok. The imagery of the snake engulfing it’s own tail, or the Ouroboros, will be used repeatedly in this story as it is the ideal metaphor. Where it is understood that many mythos on the snake and the Ouroboros represent regeneration and harmony, the snake in any of it’s aspects is more prominantly viewed as a destructive and poisonous force in the world that it inhabits.
“The snake will always bite back.” – Roberts
In physicality, Jake Roberts resembled his namesake, both lithe and sinuous. His gaze was piercing and the flow of his dark curly hair might be comparative to that of a Gorgon. It was both from his dark look, and the hissing whispering tone of his voice that showed Roberts was not simply a man who carried a snake to the ring, but a man who embodied the qualities of the snake in an almost totemistic fashion.
His finishing manuever, which has become a standard manuever for most wrestlers, was named by Roberts, the ‘DDT’. Named after a chemical banned in the 70’s. (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethan) This chemical is a perfect comparative to snake metaphor, in that it was found in the 70s to be a cancer causing agent in humans (no matter that these claims were wildly overstated). Again, we see Roberts not only using the snake, but seeing the snake as Roberts’ true anima. In both look, and now even moveset, he has chosen things that will place him in the mindset of the serpent.
“…you’re trying to cast me as the original sinner. Well I spoke to God this morning, and he said he doesn’t like you. So let’s point the finger at somebody else besides me. Let’s point the finger at the people that voted for Savage; let’s point the finger at Jack Tunney; let’s point the finger at the World Wrestling Federation. Not at me.” – Roberts
This quote, on the top level, seems a standard worked statement from a man that has been wronged, but the venom that runs through it just beneath the surface is scathing. Jake Roberts was a man who fell victim to vice. Stories of him not wrestling without his narcotics are widely spread as are the stories of advice presented to him being ignored time and time again. This is another trait of the snake, as it appears in the Chinese Zodiac:
They are self-confident and usually don’t bother to listen to someone else’s opinion. But this can also have a negative effect. Refusing to listen to constructive advice, they may get into needless trouble.
How many people told Roberts of the perils of what he was doing, only to be brushed aside? How much did he know of what he did? How much of this all was just escapism from a man who had been estranged from his family and children? Why was it that he even allowed that estrangement to happen in the first place? The considerations are many, but my argument is that the anima holds, and it is in the nature of the snake to travel a solitary path, where those that attempt to reach out to it, even in help, will be lashed out upon.
That is where the fangs sink on Roberts’ Ouroboros. As time went on in the industry, he was lauded as one of the most versatile men on the microphone, and one of the most intense psychology men in the ring. Slowly though, the snake engulfed itself.
“He who imitates evil always goes beyond the example that is set. On the contrary, he who imitates good always falls a little bit short.” – Roberts
Roberts left his home of the WWF in 1992, after a loss to the Undertaker. Following a small run through WCW, AAA, and SMOKEY MOUNTAIN, he returned to the place that the legend reached it’s peak at the 1996 Royal Rumble. The story of Roberts’ drug abuse was brought to the forefront of the federation as a story involving him as an alcoholic. His new spin on the character, a bible-reading preacher, was mocked and ridiculed, but the support behind the character was tremendous.
The culmination of this being the 1996 King Of The Ring, where Roberts’ lost in the finals to an upstarting Stone Cold Steve Austin, giving him his catch phrase ‘Austin 3:16′ in mockery of Roberts’ character. Another showing of the influence the Snake had on the entire industry, as Austin rose to superstardom from there.
“When I was brought into this world, I could not rob; I could not steal; I could not lie; I couldn’t even cheat. But boy, did I have some help learning – you have taught me so well.” – Roberts
The Ouroboros is a circular creation. Jake’s career, where not ended, has reached a state of torper. That does not mean that the spirit of the Snake has died. One might consider that it has been transferred to those he has influenced. Two notable students of Roberts’ once even fought over who he favoured.
One of those men also uses an animal as his representative. An animal considered as ominous as the snake. His name is Raven.
Scott Levy also took on the moniker and anima of an animal, his life also frought with alcoholism and drug abuse during the high points of his career. Beset with addiction, the student was much like the teacher, and the cycle continued on.
Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts is a victim of his own design. It can be assumed that as a child and throughout his life, he showed qualities of the snake, and when wrestling became his chosen vocation, it was easy to project that vision outward and turn it into a namesake. In the world of professional wrestling, it isn’t hard to envision yourself as a superhero, place yourself in a dreamed vocation, or let your internal ego present itself outwardly without any fear of being viewed negatively. You can stand tall and state, “This is my character” when the truth remains that you are just presenting what was within you the whole time.
The Snake did just this, which made his life, to some degree, available to public eyes, and we were able to see the Ouroboros. From the mouth of the snake latching upon the tail, circulating all the way to the tail, being digested by the same mouth. A holy symbology that both presents a force, but also inevitably falls to it’s own vice.
Thank you all for reading the first installment of The Acute Angle.
My name is Theodore VanHouten IV, and I will see you again in two weeks.