The Resurrection Of Jake The Snake Roberts
Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Diamond Dallas Page, Chris Jericho, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
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…persistently engaging, deeply moving…
“Didn’t you used to be Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts?” That was the question haunting Aurelian Smith Jr., the real name of the man who plied his trade in the World Wrestling Federation in the ‘80s and ‘90s as a moustachioed snake-wrangler. A brusque prologue turns to some of the biggest icons in pro wrestling – including household names Chris Jericho and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin – to set up Roberts as one of the premier performers in wrestling history, while quickly puncturing any pretence of the entertainment form’s realism.
Though he never maintained the body-builder physique of other stars in the industry, Roberts made himself a legend with his whispery promos (industry talk for on-camera interviews), sinewy physicality and peerless sense of in-ring psychology. Cut to 2008 and the man who played to 93,000 at Wrestlemania 3 was rock-bottom drunk in front of a crowd of 700, too blotto to even pull off his famous finishing manoeuvre, the DDT. Lingering wounds from an unloving father, as well as all manner of nasty physical abuse visited upon him throughout his childhood, had put Roberts on the fast track to a life of alcoholism and crack cocaine abuse. In wrestling parlance, addiction had the chokehold. Enter Diamond Dallas Page, or DDP, whom Jake had once taken under his wing as a 35-year-old wrestling rookie and who had reinvented himself post-wrestling with a brand of power-based yoga called DDP Yoga. Page – flanked by courageous filmmaker, Steve Yu, who only lowers his camera when he is milliseconds from receiving a punch in the face – brings Roberts into his home to rehabilitate him, instilling a culture of tough love and accountability as he attempts to transform the obese wreck into a figure resembling the svelte performer-athlete of decades ago, with a clear mind to match.
The majority of the film documents this rollercoaster process, and it is always gut-wrenchingly, tear-jerkingly intense and heartfelt. If you recall the potent and tightly made 1999 doco, Beyond The Mat, which depicted Roberts’ tortured relationship with his daughter, then you’re in for more of the same, though the compassion of DDP gives the film a unique tone of optimism and inspiration. The addition of another tragic wrestling figure in Scott Hall, aka Razor Roman, adds further fascination to this story of redemption, which is persistently engaging, deeply moving, and finally profoundly inspiring. In short, Jake The Man makes for pure documentary gold, with his salty turns of phrase, busted heart, and that tiny sliver of hope which he clings to like a boa constrictor even in his darkest hours. “I know this is my last fucking shot at life,” he rasps at one point, and we are privileged to be given front row seats on his journey.