The SmarK DVD Rant for Jake Roberts: Pick Your Poison

The SmarK DVD Rant for Jake Roberts: Pick Your Poison

– This was one that I skipped when it came out because it didn’t really appeal to me for $25. But for $6, hey, why not?

We start with a poem, written by Jake Roberts, so I’m already getting a bad feeling going into this.

Disc One

– Jake notes that he had a screwed up family life. For instance, his father was dating his grandmother for a time. His father, Grizzly Smith, was a bigtime pro wrestler and yet they had no money. By the time he was 13, his original mother had died and he was helping to wash his stepmother in the bath, which drove him out of the house and made him hate women. Plus then his sister married a 53-year old man when she was 19, a marriage that ended with her getting murdered in brutal fashion with the body never found.

– So after that charming backstory, Jake gets into wrestling out of high school and he’s terrified because Grizzly always maintained kayfabe 100% of the time and never smartened his kids up. When Jake told his father about his plans, Grizzley beat the shit out of him and told him he’d never make it.

– Jake jumped around the territories in the 70s, but came back early from a broken arm to keep Bill Watts happy, and shattered his arm again, setting him back another year.

– His original finish was a kneelift, but while wrestling the Grappler one night he accidentally slipped and fell while doing a facelock, and the DDT was born.

– Jake got tired of tagging with Dory Funk in Mid-Atlantic, and he moved to Georgia and started living the party lifestyle hardcore. He was doing good with Ronnie Garvin and started booking the territory, but then Vince bought them and he tore up the contract and flipped Vince off. A year later he needed a job and came crawling back, this time in the WWF.

– The snake gimmick was of course Vince’s idea and it proved to be a masterstroke. Jake had pitched the idea to Bill Watts originally and was told that "it’s not a damn circus". I beg to differ.

– Jake and Ricky Steamboat discuss their feud, and they both loved every minute because it was a great crazy angle and the matches were awesome. This led to the angle on SNME where Jake DDT’d Steamboat on the floor, but Ricky wasn’t able to block it as promised and suffered a concussion. Yeah, but it looked AWESOME.

– One day, Jake shows up at a TV taping and is told that he has an interview segment now called "The Snake Pit". We get a montage of his Ultimate Warrior-like philosophical ramblings. However, the point being that it doesn’t matter what you’re saying if you have the confidence behind it. He didn’t need to yell like a wrestler because people listened to him.

– This sets up his interview with Honky Tonk Man ("What kind of a stupid name is that?") and Honky lays him out with a non-gimmicked guitar by accident and ruptures two discs in Jake’s back. Apparently the stage hands gave Honky the wrong guitar.

– At Wrestlemania III, Honky beats Jake in one of the biggest upsets in wrestling history, kicking off his mega-push. Jake credits this as a double-turn, but Honky was a heel well before that angle.

– Jake notes that his job was to build up people and prepare them for Hulk Hogan. Not really sure where that comes from. Normally the big heel would come in and start with Hogan, and then move down the card if they drew well enough to stick around.

– Onto the Rick Rude feud, as Rude hits on Jake’s wife at ringside. Jake wanted Cheryl on the road with him because he needed help rehabbing. This was quite the hot angle, leading up to Rude getting his tights pulled off.

– This leads to a discussion of the substance problems. Gene describes it as making to the top of the mountain and then realizing that you’re not any happier once you get there, so you try to enhance the experience. Jake reels off his list of demons and notes that the only thing he didn’t do was heroin. A lot of this stuff is recycled from footage of Jake that is 16 years old now. Plus Behind the Music-style stock footage of drugs and alcohol. Like why not just re-record the Jake talking head segments with present-day Jake instead of using the 1996 Confidential interview? It’s just really off-putting. Present Jake talks about dead wrestlers and wishing God would take him too. I don’t know how or why he was spared. I would never wish death on anyone, but he really cashed in his last card a long time ago.

– Onto discussion of the snake, as Jake notes that it was just a prop and he would get a new one at the beginning of every tour.

– We move onto the Andre feud, as Jake notes that Randy Savage used to hate wrestling Andre because Andre wouldn’t give Randy anything, but Jake was incredibly honored to even be in the ring with him, because that meant Jake was a top guy. Jake faced Andre at Wrestlemania V in a match that was more of an angle to set up Jake v. Dibiase than a serious blowoff with the Giant.

– We skip forward to the Earthquake feud in 1991, as Damian meets a hero’s demise via Quake’s ass in one of the dumber moments ever played up as serious. In storyline terms, however, Jake used this to transform his character into a psychotic heel later on.

– Speaking of which, we get the episode of the Funeral Parlor (I was at that taping!) where Jake pledges to teach the secrets of the dark side to the Ultimate Warrior. Jake relates the story of having to ask Warrior permission to work with him. So Jake plays along and does all the vignettes, but Warrior flakes out and leaves after Summerslam, leaving newly heel Jake with no opponent. So instead he crashes the Savages’ wedding reception and attacks Elizabeth with a cobra and now he’s got his opponent.

– Meanwhile, Jake was spiraling downwards faster in real life, missing shows and doing more drugs.

– Back to the fake world again, Jake attacks Randy Savage with a cobra and freaks out the audience. Ted Dibiase’s take: "There’s not enough money." We skip over the Randy Savage feud entirely and move to Undertaker turning babyface. Jake says that with Pat Patterson leaving the company he asked for the booking job, but Vince turned him down. So Jake admits that he essentially held up Vince for money before Wrestlemania VIII. He took a huge offer from WCW into Vince’s office as leverage and then went out and did the job to Undertaker, but when he showed up for work at WCW Bill Watts had taken over and tore up the huge new contract. So he went from making $3 million a year to $200,000.

– Off to WCW and he’s immediately put into a main event feud against Sting, but then nothing. Jim Ross to this day doesn’t know what happened and why it didn’t work out. Jake says that he was given an ultimatum by his wife: The business or the marriage. So he retired.

– Three years later, Jake returns to the WWF out of shape and preaching Jesus. The talking heads all doubt that Jake actually was following that doctrine. Vince notes the irony of Jake’s religion giving birth to the biggest star of all time.

– We move onto the tasteless feud with Lawler where King made every joke about alcoholics in his repertoire, leading to a shitty match at Summerslam. Jake notes that he was a little upset that Lawler actually spit whiskey in his face instead of iced tea. Jake was then supposed to move behind the camera as a writer, but his sober phase ended due to a dying family life, and that was it for his career.

– Surprisingly, we talk about Beyond the Mat, as Jake claims that the premise was misrepresented to him as a TV documentary produced to help steer kids away from drugs. Not surprisingly, the talking heads all completely bury the movie, claiming it was produced to make Jake look as pathetic as possible. Not like that would take much.

– Jake on his involvement with ECW in 1997: He doesn’t mind making a large sum of money for 30 seconds work.

– Moving on to present day, as Jake returns to RAW in 2005 as part of Randy Orton’s Legend Killer tour. And that’s where we leave off in terms of his career.

– Jake notes that he’s such a loser that he can’t even kill himself properly, which is a charming note to end on. Vince’s paraphrased take: He could have been a multimillionaire, but he fucked it all up.

What a depressing documentary. Plus it kind of skipped over a lot of important little points and moments and didn’t really have much insight other than "sometimes he was drunk but when he wasn’t, he was really good." Plus some stuff contradicted itself, like the 1996 period where Jake claimed to be sober at Summerslam, but Ted Dibiase later related a story where he found Jake in the hotel room plastered. Well, Ted Dibiase was long gone well before that Lawler feud even began, so obviously Jake was off the wagon months before Lawler began spitting whiskey at him. Little things like that annoy me. And where was the Rick Martel feud, which dominated most of 1990 for him? Not even a mention! As documentaries go, Beyond the Mat is far superior to this one.

The Extras

Snake Pit match: Jake Roberts v. Ricky Steamboat

Really? This is where we start? No Georgia stuff, or Stampede, or even Florida? Anyway, this is from the Big Event in Toronto. This is no-DQ. Jake attacks to start and gets backdropped, so he bails. Back in, Ricky fires away with chops and gets two. Steamboat works the arm and chops Jake down for two. Back to the arm, but they hit the floor and Jake clips him to take over. They brawl on the floor and exchange chairshots, and Steamboat wins that battle. Back in, Dragon with the flying chop for two. Steamboat pounds away in the corner, but Jake reverses him into the corner and Steamboat bumps to the floor. Jake follows up with a catapult into the post that allows Steamboat to do a wussy blade. Back in, Jake peppers him with rights and hits the short-arm clothesline. DDT is blocked and Ricky fights back with chops, but Jake hits him with an atomic drop and the gutbuster. Arrogant cover gets two, but Steamboat reverses for the pin at 10:15. Well that’s kind of a disappointing finish. ***1/4 I should note that this seemed like a better match to me than the edited version on the original Coliseum release of the show, but I gave both matches the same rating.

Jake Roberts v. Honky Tonk Man

From Wrestlemania III, with new commentary by Jim Ross and Jake Roberts. Alice Cooper as Jake’s second is the kind of perfect celebrity usage that they’re not very good at anymore. Honky’s original theme song is left intact here, rather than dubbing in the more familiar song from "Piledriver". This was a pretty hot feud back in the day. Jake attacks and drags him into the ring to start, then kneelifts him out of the ring and sends him back in again. Honky runs away, so Jake slams him on the floor and they head back in again, where Jake charges and hits knee. Honky pounds on the arm, but gets hit with a short clothesline as a result and bails again. Jake follows him for the brawl on the floor, but gets rammed into the post and Honky won’t let him back into the ring. Back in, Honky slams him to set up the fistdrop, and he slugs away instead of going for the finish. Elbow and he continues pounding away and wasting time, and finally it’s Shake Rattle N Roll, but by then Jake is easily able to reverse out of it. Jake comes back with an inverted atomic drop and slugs away on Honky, which puts Honky into the ropes for the rocking chair spot. DDT time, but Jake gets distracted by Jimmy Hart and Honky rolls him up and grabs the ropes to finish at 7:11. **1/2 Quite a decent little match, especially for having to follow the greatest match in history up until that point.

Jake Roberts v. Rick Rude

From MSG, October 1988, and the stipulation is that whoever gets their finisher first wins. Thank god they didn’t put the Wrestlemania match on here instead. Your announcing team: Ron Trongaard, Billy Graham and Lord Alfred Hayes. I could not possibly dream up a worse combination of people, unless you stuck Duke Doherty on there as well. Jake works on the arm to start and goes for the DDT, but Rude slips out of the ring. Hayes actually has a rare moment of adding something to the match, as he notes that you can develop your neck to resist the Rude Awakening, but you can’t develop your head to resist the DDT. They slug it out and Rude clotheslines Jake, then hits the chinlock. That goes on for a while, but Jake fights out. He charges and hits knee, however, and both guys are out. Rude goes for the finish, but Jake bites the hand to break. They brawl onto the floor and Jake slams him there, and back in for the comeback. Jake slugs away and gets the gutbuster to set up the DDT, but Rude grabs the ropes to block. Jake hauls him off the ropes by the tights, giving us the full moon, and follows up with the short-arm clothesline. Rude sends him into the corner to block and then sweeps the leg. He goes after Cheryl and prevents a slap, but then decides to go after Jake again, and the DDT ends it at 12:21. This was fine but pretty dull, coming at the tail end of their hot feud. ***

The rest of the extras on the first disc are soundbites from Jake on a variety of topics. His memories of Dynamite Kid coming to him and asking which of Bret Hart’s eyes to blacken is pretty funny. They also clear up a longstanding question fans have had: Why didn’t we ever get a Hogan-Jake feud? Answer: We did, but they shot an angle where Jake laid Hulk out with a DDT, and the fans CHEERED him, so they did two matches and then dropped it completely. It was just going to hurt both guys in the long run if they continued down that road.

Disc Two

Rick Steamboat & Jake Roberts v. Mike Millar & Jim Nelson

From Mid-Atlantic, September 1981. Most of this match was already shown in the documentary, so this pretty lazy. Jake and Ricky trade off on Nelson’s arm and then Jake works on Millar’s leg. Steamboat comes in and Nelson goes after the neck, as the jobbers get some token offense in the corner. Steamboat comes back and chops the crap out of Millar, and it’s over to Jake for a slam. Millar tags out to Nelson again, but Steamboat chops him down and Roberts finishes with the kneelift and backdrop suplex at 5:35. Nelson would go on to become Boris Zhukov, but otherwise this was a totally non-notable squash.

World TV Title: Jake Roberts v. Ronnie Garvin

From Georgia Championship Wrestling, December 1983. Garvin was the first ever TV champion and dropped it to Jake, and this is a rare (for the time) major title match on TV. Jake works a headlock to start, but gets tossed. Back in, Garvin works a facelock, and I should note that he looks strangely like Greg Valentine with his longer hairstyle at that point. That goes on for a long while, and we take a break. Back with Jake in control and working on Garvin’s legs, then adding a slam and kneedrop for two. Garvin comes back with a flying bodypress for two and Jake bails for advice from Paul Ellering. That advice? "Don’t get into a drinking contest with Hawk, you’ll never win." If only he had listened. Back in, Garvin whips him into the corner and gets a slam and kneedrop, getting some good shots in and working pretty stiff for a TV match. Jake bails to regroup, and now he wants a fistfight with Garvin. He actually wins that battle momentarily, but then Garvin kicks his ass and rolls him up for two. Small package gets two. Garvin misses an elbow and Jake comes back with an atomic drop for two. Garvin uses some ground and pound, but the time limit expires at 10:30 (that must have been some commercial break!) for the draw. Fun match, I guess, but I have no idea why it was included in the extras other than the fact that they used footage from it in the documentary and apparently they’re too lazy to find another one. **1/2

Leaping Lanny Poffo v. Jake Roberts

From MSG, March 1986. Lanny lets us know that this is Jake’s debut. So there you go. Jake gets a quick slam, but Poffo dropkicks him down. Jake goes to the arm, but Poffo flips off the ropes to break and gets his own armbar. Jake keeps crawling to the bag and then gets a backbreaker to escape before pounding the back. Jake goes to the chinlock and that goes on for a while. They fight to the floor and Poffo tries a dive off the top, but slips and nearly kills himself in the process. Jake, full of sympathy, hiptosses him onto the unpadded floor, and then in for the DDT at 6:42. Big-time debut for Jake here. Not a great match or anything, but he went over huge and the MSG debut of Damian made him into a huge star instantly. **

Jake Roberts v. Earthquake

From Superstars, April 1991. Quake attacks to start, but Jake lets Damian out of the bag right away and Quake runs away. The canned heat is incredibly annoying after listening to the more natural sound mixes of the previous matches. Quake stalls on the floor while the ref makes Jake put the snake away and we waste more time. Yeah, it’s 1991 TV so I’m not expecting a classic match, but we all know why this is on here and they might as well just skip all the buildup and cut to the chase if they’re including it here. Especially when the match sucks. So Jake finally puts the snake under the ring, but Quake attacks him again and ties him up in the ropes, then BUTT-SPLASHES THE SNAKE! Don’t worry, they switched snakes when they were under the ring. The one in the bag is actually a drug dealing snake who murdered his girlfriend and raped children. Even stupider, this version CUTS AWAY from the butt-splash and shows Sean Mooney reacting in horror instead, when they showed the "uncensored" version in the documentary already. This is such incredibly lazy editing from the video division. This angle went nowhere despite the buildup here, as Jake went heel by Summerslam and Earthquake was teamed with Typhoon instead. I don’t even remember a blowoff.

Jake Roberts v. some jobber

The guy is never ID’d in the menu (this is listed as "After a match on Superstars…") and finishes under 20 seconds with the DDT. Then we get the angle with Savage running down and getting bitten by a cobra. Yeah, this was brilliant, but WHERE’S THE BLOWOFF MATCH? No Tuesday in Texas, no Saturday Night’s Main Event? What an aggravating set.

Coal Miner’s Glove match: Jake Roberts v. Sting

From Halloween Havoc 1992. For those who don’t know the backstory here, they came up with a pretty interesting idea for the feud in the "Spin the wheel, make the deal" match, but then ran a goofy series of vignettes to build it up and then forgot to gimmick the wheel. So instead of anything interesting, we get the Coal Miner’s Glove stipulation, which had nothing to do with the feud. Jake goes for the pole early, but Sting hauls him down and hits him with a right. Jake grabs a headlock and evades a Sting dropkick, then tosses him. They fight on the floor and Sting runs Jake’s arm into the post and heads back in. You know what’s really weird? Jim Ross is calling this match alone, despite Jesse Ventura clearly sitting there at ringside with him and talking. And there’s weird periods of silence, like someone was doing color commentary with Ross but got edited out. Huh. That’s weird, isn’t it? Maybe that guy who looked like Jesse was just an optical illusion. Jesse should totally cover that one on his conspiracy show. Jake and Sting make attempts at the pole and each drag the other back down, totally failing to build any momentum here. Sting works on the arm, but they fight to the floor and Jake gets a cheapshot to take over, then chokes him out with the wrist tape back in the ring. This is supposed to be a super-heated feud and even the Philly crowd is just sitting quietly and nodding off. Sting comes back with the Stinger splash, but Jake moves and comes back with the short-arm clothesline. DDT finally wakes up the crowd and Sting is out, but now Jake goes for the glove. What the hell kind of sense is that supposed to make? He’s already done, pin him. Sting makes a miraculous recovery and knocks Jake off the pole, but Cactus Jack brings Jake a snake while Sting gets the glove. The snake bites Jake by accident and Sting pins him at 10:25. What a god-awful ridiculous finish. 1/2* This prompts another obvious question: Why didn’t they put Jack and Jake together and let them do promos every week until one turned on the other? How dumb do you have to be not to run THAT program?

SMW title: Tony Anthony v. Jake Roberts

Holy cow, it’s SMW footage! We don’t get nearly enough of that on these releases. Not being sarcastic there, by the way, I really love SMW and I wish they got more play on WWE DVDs. Jake starts with a headlock and yanks Anthony down by the hair, then demonstrates on Mark Curtis about how he wasn’t actually cheating. Anthony does the same thing to Roberts and then also pleads his case to the ref. Jake keeps going for the patched eye, but Bob Caudle points out that it’s not poor sportsmanship because Anthony is literally wearing a target on that body part. That’s a refreshing change of pace from a babyface announcer. Anthony recovers and starts with an armbar, then shoulderblocks him down and works a hammerlock on the mat. Jake dumps him, and The Samurai heads out and rips off the eyepatch. This naturally puts Anthony at a disadvantage because of the bright lights, and Jake pounds away in the corner as a result. Jake does the arrogant cover and Anthony reverses for two, but Jake puts him down with an atomic drop again. Jake pounds away in the corner and hauls Anthony to the floor for some verbal abuse, but Tony makes the comeback and slugs Jake down. Big boot and Jake bails, then he lays out a planted photographer and steals the camera. He flashes the camera into Anthony’s eyes, and finishes with the DDT at 12:42. "Mama, put the coffee pot on, we’re coming home" is my new favorite phrase for the end of a match. Not exactly Jake’s best work, but that was a great finish. **1/2

King of the Ring finals: Jake Roberts v. Steve Austin

The reasoning behind having this match as the finals had to do with the backstage stuff, as HHH getting bounced from the tournament meant that they had to redo the finals with the brackets already set. Austin lays Roberts out and pounds on the injured ribs, but Jake fights back and slugs Austin down. Back to the ribs and President Gorilla comes out and wants it stopped. Jake wants to continue and tries to finish with the DDT, but Austin sends him into the corner to reinjure the ribs and it’s KICK WHAM STUNNER to make Austin the King at 4:32. Not much of a match, to say the least. 1/2*

Jake Roberts v. Jerry Lawler

And from bad to worse, we go to Summerslam 1996. Lawler cuts a lengthy promo on Roberts and reveals a giant bottle of booze in his bag, so Jake puts the snake on him and sends him running. So Lawler cuts another promo and offers Jake some liquor, but Jake chases him back in. They head outside and Lawler grabs a cool refreshing soda from a fan at ringside and throws it in Jake’s face to take over ("Aaaaah! The Fresca BURNS!") and then ties him in the ropes and grabs the WHISKEY BOTTLE OF DOOM. Jake fights him off and goes to finish, but Lawler grabs the ref to block and then hits Jake with the bottle for the pin at 4:05. This was awful and had no place on PPV. -**

– From ECW’s Hardcore Heaven PPV, Jake runs in during the Tommy Dreamer v. Jerry Lawler match and lays out both guys. Come on, they already showed this clip in the documentary!

Jake Roberts & Tommy Dreamer v. Justin Credible & Jack Victory

From November to Remember 98. The heels get tossed to start and Tommy brawls with Credible on the floor. Justin gives him an atomic drop onto the railing and stomps a mudhole in the corner, then tosses Dreamer to the ramp. Back in, DDT from Justin and Dreamer gets sent to the ramp again for more abuse from the three-ring circus of managers that Heyman gave Credible. Seriously, the dude has Lance Wright, Nicole Bass, Chastity AND Jason all at ringside with him. Dreamer fights back with a DDT on Jason and superplexes Justin, but Credible comes back with Raven’s drop toehold on the chair. Roberts comes in and beats up Chastity while Dreamer recovers, and the Dreamer Driver on Credible sets up the hot tag to Jake. For some reason, Jason has now replaced Jack Victory in the match with little explanation forthcoming. The faces look to finish, but One Man Gang and Rod Price run in now and beat them down. This prompts New Jack and Kronus to run in for the babyface side and the usual stupid brawl erupts. This makes me wonder: Will we ever see another New Jack match on WWE DVD? I wonder not because I’d want to see one, but because they’d have to edit his music out of the entire match. Out of all the chaos, Dreamer gets a frog splash on Credible for two and piledrives Chastity. Jake DDTs Bass, but Credible hits him in the anaconda. Jake recovers and DDTs Credible on a ladder for the pin at 13:09. Total garbage. -**

And finally, we get a series of vignettes and interviews from the WWF, most notably the series of "tests" for the Ultimate Warriors that culminates with Jake turning on him and leaving him to die in a room full of snakes, as we learn that Undertaker and Roberts were in cahoots all along. Warrior, supposedly in his normal clothing here, dresses exactly the same except for khaki shorts instead of tights. Otherwise, he’s still got the makeup and arm tassels. Knowing what we do now, they probably should have killed off the Warrior character here.

The Pulse

What a shitty, lazy DVD this was. The documentary was OK, if depressing and not particularly insightful, but the bonus matches were seemingly picked at random and most were terrible. Strong recommendation to avoid, pick up Beyond the Mat instead.

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