This year’s WWE Hall of Fame announcements have already served as a strong nod to the 1980s wrestling scene, and as such, I’ve been thinking a lot about Jake “The Snake” Roberts’ nomination.
Roberts is one of the most memorable stars to come out of that period for anyone who grew up watching WWF wrestling at the time — those memories are despite him never holding a title in the federation or even being a great worker in the ring.
But Jake had a lot of things going for him:
- A killer finishing move with the DDT. I’m not sure anyone in the WWF had ever used that finisher before Roberts’ arrived, and I can tell you that it was a move that made the crowd erupt when he hit it.
- Creepy interviews. His delivery and facial expressions made Roberts stand out during promos, and he could portray evil particularly well through his words. Even as a babyface, his promos had a sense of dread about them. One of my all-time favorite interviews from any wrestler was Mean Gene Okerlund talking to the Snake just before his WrestleMania VI match with Ted DiBiase.
- Damien. Roberts’ pet snake, which he brought to the ring in a burlap sack draped over his shoulder, was a scary gimmick in the days of cartoonish characters. Damien crawling over fallen opponents, flicking his tongue at the them, and occasionally going into some poor guy’s mouth were all images that we as fans could relate to — none of us could really imagine what it was like to get a DDT, but we could all relate to how freaked out we’d be if a big-ass snake was crawling over us.
- Awesome feuds. Whether it was giving Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat a DDT on the concrete floor during Saturday Night’s Main Event, ripping Ravishing Rick Rude’s tights off during a period when Rude was flirting with Jake’s wife, or Damien biting Randy “Macho Man” Savage’s arm, Jake’s conflicts often got taken up a notch.
Roberts never had a main event run in the WWF (Hulk Hogan nixed that idea, as noted in an earlier post). However, I think along with Roddy Piper, he was one of those characters who did not need a title because the fans loved him even as a heel.
Jake the Snake was a drug addict and boozer who has had some hard times since his wrestling heyday, and he’s also had some inspiring moments in recent years as he’s tried to stay clean and get back in shape. It’s hard to imagine Roberts will get anything short of a standing ovation when he gets inducted into the Hall of Fame, not only for his time in the WWF, but also for his personal efforts to stay straight.