If ever you’ve viewed Beyond the Mat, you’ll know that the story of Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts is not a happy one. In fact, it’s quite sad, and that documentary was tough viewing. I don’t believe Jake has ever been happy with how it portrayed him either, which gets raised briefly in The Resurrection of Jake the Snake too. Can’t blame him, in all honesty, as it was used as a tool to beat down the professional wrestling industry at Jake’s expense, rather than as an attempt to raise awareness about Jake’s struggles.
For anyone unfamiliar with his story, Jake the Snake was formerly a professional wrestler, and one who had been involved in some of the most memorable moments in WWE history (his snake legitimately biting Randy Savage’s arm, anyone?). As was often the case with wrestlers from his generation, he also lived a very wild lifestyle away from the arenas, and that led to him becoming a serious alcoholic. He’s been offered help in the past, but has never seen it through, and so by the time this documentary begins Jake is in a very bad place in his life.
At the start of this rather sobering documentary (pardon the pun), we are shown some fan footage of a show from several years ago where Jake showed up drunk, unable to properly get into the ring, and unable to register what was going on around him. Suffice to say, everything goes wrong, and for people to see Jake like this was both uncomfortable for me as a viewer and childhood fan, but also for those who actually know him. As we see in some talking head interviews, there’s a real disdain for those people who decided to record Jake in this state, rather than try to help him.
A few years after that incident, Jake has retired, and continued to drink and alienate many around him, including his children. We catch up with him as he is visited by Diamond Dallas Page, creator of DDP Yoga, who wants to help his friend beat his disease. Ultimately, Jake agrees to move into Dallas’ home with him, so that his progress in getting sober can be monitored first hand, and so that Dallas and his team can help Jake shed the weight he’s gained. Basically, it was Mission: Save Jake.
What follows is many false starts at a success story. Jake wants to beat his vice, and he wants to be a better man and father, so it’s very heartening see him outright address what his problems are and how he needs to beat them. Unfortunately, he does have an addiction though, and many times where it seems he’s on the right track, he is brought back to square one after getting drunk. Seeing him insist he has only had two or three drinks is sad too, and Dallas has no qualms on calling him out on that bullshit. Jake needs to hear people talking tough to him though, as he admits himself that he’s had too many people around him in the past who have just let him carry on as he does.
Eventually, Scott Hall is brought into the house. Knowing Hall’s story as I do, and the symmetry it has with Jake’s in regards to his alcohol addiction, I did feel slightly concerned for Jake’s own sobriety being around Hall. Even Dallas expresses similar concerns in one of his talking head interviews. When Hall arrives though, he perhaps looks an even more broken man than Jake was just prior to moving to Dallas’ home.
Whilst Hall’s digs at Jake’s hairline, etc., do become triggers for Jake, it is heartening watching both men rely on each other as they get themselves healthy, and realise just how much love their fans have for them. Jake’s reaction to a crowdfunding campaign to fund his shoulder surgery is 100% genuine, and I genuinely think that prior to that he’d made himself believe that no one gave a shit about him. Hard to blame him, given the prior mentioned documentary movie and the fan footage from his drunk performance at a match.
Jake the Snake has a target: he wants to compete in WWE‘s next Royal Rumble event. I won’t say here whether he achieves that dream or not, but one thing that he does achieve is a beautiful cap on his career, and even though I witnessed it on live television at the time, living it within the context of this documentary was something else entirely. The people making this movie love Jake, and they celebrate his successes with us in a way that really leaves a mark.
This documentary doesn’t shy away from showing Jake at his worst, but takes great satisfaction in showing him at his best, and that’s what is mostly different about the documentary that was made about him a number of years ago. This one wants him to succeed; the other one did not.
One of the first memories I have of professional wrestling is Jake in a WWE ring with his snake. It scared the absolute hell out of me, but clearly left an impression. For anyone else with similar memories of him, I’d suggest you view this documentary. Even better, if you are a Netflix subscriber, it’s available in many territories including my own United Kingdom, so no reason to part with any money to see it. In truth though, it would be worth whatever it is they are asking for the physical copy, as it is just that damn good.