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Wrestling / Jake Roberts

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"Yeah, reach out for me! I'm a snake! Never trust a snake!"
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Aurelian Jake Smith Jr. (born May 30, 1954) is a second-generation professional wrestler best known as Jake "The Snake" Roberts. He started his career in various NWA territories before finally establishing himself within the WWF. From late The '80s to late The '90s, he feuded with their top tier talent. Lauded for his mic work, cutting dark and cerebral promos, bringing his live pet snakes into the ring, and for inventing the dreaded DDT maneuver.

"Stone Cold" Steve Austin, who was on the cusp of breaking out and just needed a really good catchphrase, defeated Jake to win the King of the Ring Tournament in 1996. In Austin's victory promo, in where the supposed born-again Christian Jake referenced John 3:16, Austin struck gold with the following:

"You sit there and you thump your Bible, and you say your prayers, and it didn't get you anywhere! Talk about your Psalms, talk about John 3:16... Austin 3:16 says "I just whipped your ass!""

Unfortunately, years of family troubles and drug abuse (and his resulting in-ring behavior) made him more famous for DWIs than DDTs, marking him as poison (or venom, if you will) in the eyes of the big companies. As a result, he has had trouble maintaining steady employment, though he has worked consistently on the road as an independent agent.

Among his in-ring achievements, he is a former Stampede North American Heavyweight Champion, a former 2x NWA (Georgia version) World Television Champion, a former 2x Mid-South North American Heavyweight Champion, a former NWA (Texas version) Six Man Tag-Team Champion (w/"Gentleman" Chris Adams and "Gorgeous" Gino Hernandez) and a former SMW Heavyweight Champion. He was also the only true "winner" of the Million Dollar Belt (See "Loophole Abuse" below.) in WWF. Inducted to both, the WWE Hall Of Fame Class of 2014 and the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum Class of 2020.

In March 2020, Jake showed up on the post-Revolution episode of AEW Dynamite, revealing that he'd joined the promotion as a manager for a new talent who was coming next week (revealed to be Lance Archer) and cutting a vicious promo on Cody Rhodes.

Damned Delicious Tropes:

  • Aborted Arc:
  • Animal Companion/Animal Motif: Go on, guess!
  • Arch-Enemy:
  • Ax-Crazy: Not as obvious as other examples, but once provoked he turns into a very sadistic, psychotic fighter. Pretty much like... um, a Cornered Rattlesnake?
  • Badass Boast/Warrior Poet: Please gather around and let us be enlightened by his wicked wisdom.
    • "The snake will ALWAYS bite back!"
    • "Even a fool knows that a man only has five senses, but a snake? He has six... and we always do it better in the dark!"
    • "Like a snake, like fate, like life and death itself. I'm cruel ... but I'm fair!"
    • "The great thing about being a snake is that we are deaf, and therfore don't have to hear all the lies told by men".
    • "...and how appropriate, that the money you grovel for, will be your very own. A victim of your own greed, wallowing... in the muck... of avarice!"
    • "You know? Since this whole thing started you've been trying to cast me as the Original Sinner. Well, I SPOKE TO GOD this morning, and HE said he doesn't like YOU!!!"
    • "The next time you think about crossing a snake's path - and a snake chooses his own path, where nobody else wants to go - you think about it again!"
    • "Your God... he giveth, and he can taketh away. My God, he giveth... but he ain't got the balls to do nothin' else!"
    • "You wanna play 21? I've got 22." note 
    • "It's been twenty years for me, Cody. Twenty years to get clean, to get right. And by God, I earned it!"
    • "What a snake wants, a snake takes!"
  • Bad Samaritan/Trickster Mentor: Was one to The Ultimate Warrior, who looked for his help against Taker, but in the end Warrior was taught no valuable lesson, aside from "snake bites can kill".
  • Bad Santa: Dressed up as one to help Kevin Sullivan defeat Dusty Rhodes in Florida 1982, as Sullivan, as the masked "Bonebuster", had paid off Jake for injuring Barry Windham.
  • Bait the Dog: In a spot where every villain is set to forge alliances or trap new victims on their way to the top, Heel Jake was (Possibly with Bobby Heenan) the Grandmaster in this long-lost fine art. Character-wise, Frank Underwood meets George P. Dog so to speak.
  • Bash Brothers: With Kevin Sullivan, Nord the Barbarian, and The Undertaker.
  • Batman Gambit/Brass Balls: He pulled some of the most daring and impossibly brave shenanigans, deceptions and cheats ever, even against foes he shouldn't be pitted against for starters. Heck, even one of the most legendary tricksters and con men in pro wrestling history like Lawler fell unbeknowst of Jake's true intentions!
  • Becoming the Mask: Unlike most cases, Jake's was intentional. According to him, Aurelian, Jr. hasn't matured since he was 12 or 13, and he became Jake just to cope with his traumatic childhood.
  • Being Personal Isn't Professional: One of the quirks of being "Grizzly" Smith's son wasn't just have suffered physical and emotional abuse as a kid. Turned out that Grizzly was also a huge stiff jerkass professionaly, so many of a still green Jake's hard-boiled, jaded, embittered veteran peers were rookies by the time his dad worked on the sqared circle. Meaning that Jake had to endure quite a rough, chok-full-o-bumps road before to even dream on fame and glory.
  • Big Bad/Card-Carrying Villain: In his heyday... Alas, poor Jake! He's maybe the best example in pro wrestling of Being Good Sucks ever!
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family:
    • His father, Aurelian "Grizzly" Smith Sr., who if Roberts's accounts are true was an outright monster. Jake was conceived when Grizzly abused the 13-year-old daughter of a woman he was dating, who would become Jake's caring grandmother until she passed away when he was twelve. Social pressure would cause Grizzly and the girl to be married against their will. As this was in the mid 1950s rural Texas, records were sparse and no reports were filed at the time, though with his father's later history and allegations of child abuse note , this would explain much.
    • Then Jake had to endure abuse himself from his new stepmother Marsha who was barely 5 or 6 years his senior, to the point that when he finally dared to speak up to Grizzly what was happening, she answered by bashing him with wire hangers constantly. All the Smith kids theorize this was all of Grizzly's doing.
    • In a Kayfabe enforcing example, while still wrestling throughout Jake's childhood in the 1960s, Grizzly would wear neck braces at home after "suffering" an in-match injury, letting his women and children believe he was literally fighting for his life every single night.
    • One of his sisters by the name Jo Lynn, at age 18, married a man 35 years her senior; the man's ex-wife later kidnapped her, the body is still missing.
    • Smith died from Alzheimers in 2010, and his accounts of Roberts's stories, aside from a protest about the circumstances of Jake's conception, are unknown.
  • The Cameo: His As Himself appearance on the Boy Meets World episode "Sixteen Candles and Four-Hundred-Pound Men."
  • Catchphrase: "Trust me." note 
  • The Chessmaster/Crazy-Prepared: Contemplate his fighting style for example, not very flashy by itself, even it may appear limited and ironically is more akin to a spider than snake-like. Every thing he does is meant to lure his opponents into a very well-planned, carefully-set trap. It worked every single time, even if he was outnumbered, beaten to a pulp just to rise up and apply his dreaded DDT in the nick of time.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: His heel persona.
  • Chronic Pet Killer: Jake would typically go through multiple snakes a month back in the day. He once accidentally left one in the car overnight in the depth of winter, went out in the morning to find it frozen solid, and called the office to request a new snake.
  • Cool Old Guy: He's now this since his 1/6/14 return.
  • The Corrupter: An ability he surpassed his mentor in.
    "Even Eve was tempted by the Snake!"
  • Cultured Badass: How many wrestlers that you know can quote The Immortal Bard, John Milton, Gene Roddenberry, ancient fables and even The Good Book?
  • Dark Shepherd: His "Born-again christian" persona. His main preach was Virtue Is Weakness.
  • The Dark Side: What Jake put The Warrior into for "enlightenment", in order to face Taker... if he only had knew better!
  • Darkest Hour: His appearance on the infamous Heroes of Wrestling pay per view, drunk off his ass, more out of shape than ever, and his hair having gone almost entirely grey.
    • This incident that occurred at an indie show in Ohio in 2008 is perhaps even worse. Jake is even more intoxicated than he was at Heroes of Wrestling (he'd apparently drank 20 miniature bottles of vodka before going out), is overweight and nowhere near in good enough condition to be wrestling. To make matters worse, he started ranting at the crowd once he got a microphone in his hand and when it came time to actually wrestle, he no sold everything that was being thrown at him and eventually dissolved into him exposing himself and getting into an altercation with one of the other wrestlers outside after the show.
  • Digital Bikini: Inversion—Roberts was feuding with lady-killer "Ravishing" Rick Rude and Rude began to wear tights with a portrait of Roberts's wife on them, claiming they had been together. Roberts made good on his promise to rip the tights off Rude if he ever wore them again, leaving Rude running from the arena trying to cover his blurred crotch, despite the fact that he was actually wearing flesh-colored underwear.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Randy Savage didn't invite Roberts to his bachelor party because Roberts was obsessing over him. Roberts's response: sending Miss Elizabeth a snake in a box.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": No one ever calls him "Aurelian Smith", with "Jake Roberts" having more or less become his shoot name. You can't really blame him for not wanting to use his father's name considering what a monster he was.
  • Do You Trust Me?: Infamously uttered in his heel persona’s entrance theme.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • Quite conscious that his frame wasn't that of a pro wrestler (Tall enough but very thin), he originally trained to enter to the business as referee.
    • Early in his career Jake had a babyface cowboy gimmick, "The Texan".
    • His original Finishing Move was a Running Knee Lift he pretended to "charge up" by patting on it.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: As of 2015, Jake is back in shape, clean, and is once again close with his family thanks to the help of Diamond Dallas Page. By all reports, he remains clean today.
  • Enemy Mine: He wasn't averted to this, since he stated time and again that he wasn't in the business to make friends, nevertheless he forged solid teams with former rivals like Hulk Hogan and even EARTHQUAKE!!!
  • Evil Slinks: He used to slither under the bottom rope to get up into the ring, also after putting his sack down in his corner he accustomed to sit down waiting for the bell to ring, then he incorporated himself placing his hands over the top rope and "slinking up" like a freakin' cobra.
  • The Farmer and the Viper: When a heel, this was frequently a subject of his image.
  • Feather Boa Constrictor: Just look at the image.
  • Finishing Move: The DDT, which he innovated, which has since become a standard move in every wrestler's repertoire. It is unknown whether the name refers to the illegal pesticide or some now-forgotten acronym. His episode from Biography: WWE Legends on A&E reveals he named it after the pesticide when he read about it in a newspaper.
  • Finishing Stomp: Downplayed: Not used as finisher, but once his opponent lied helpless upon the canvas he had a tendency to step on the fallen's head... not for the faint of heart, it looked just brutal.
  • Five Moves of Doom: Jab, jab, jab, haymaker/clothesline, short-arm clothesline, DDT.
  • Freudian Excuse: It's likely a lot of his alcohol and drug problems stem from his abusive upbringing.
  • Fun with Acronyms:invoked Depending on who you ask, the "DDT" stands for "Drop Dead Twice", "Demonic Death Trap", "Drop Down Town", "Death Drop Technique", or "Damien's Death Touch" and "Damien's Dinner Time" (perhaps because anybody on the receiving end of it would be in no condition to stop Voldermort's Jake's pet python Damien from eating him). Even Roberts seemed to have no clue which it was, and preferred to hear fans pick words at random. He also sometimes said that rather than an acronym it stands for "The End".
  • Gimmick Matches:
    • During his Stampede days, he and Big Daddy Ritter (JYD) had the first ever ladder match.
    • After "The Model" Rick Martel sprayed him in the face with cologne, Jake got Temporary Blindness that lasted several months, eventually leading to a blindfold match.
    • He had a Traumatic Haircut after losing a Hair vs. Hair Lucha de Apuestasnote  against Konnan in AAA. Amazingly he had a full-grown mane once back in WWF barely a year and a half later.
  • Grandfather Clause: Though the DDT is now a common move, Roberts (who invented it) and a few others (Tommy Dreamer, Raven) still use it as a finisher, since they were doing it before it was cool.
  • He's Back!: His return to the WWE in 2012 after decades of substance abuse. You can tell his rehab efforts with Diamond Dallas Page had been paying off, as he looked years younger than he did in his previous few public appearances.
    • While he only ever made cameo appearances in WWE even after getting cleaned up, he returned to the wrestling industry in earnest in 2020 by joining All Elite Wrestling as the manager of Lance Archer.
  • He Cleans Up Nicely: This is what Jake looked like before Diamond Dallas Page intervened; here's what he looks like after. Aside from his rather terrible haircut, he now looks to be in great shape for his age.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Have you ever heard of Jake impersonating people when he's telling his stories? Despite his raspy voice, he is quite good on it! Just watch any WWE Story Time or Dark Side of the Ring episode containing Jake, lots and lots of fun!
    • He's also one of the best acting perfomers the business have given in the last 35 or maybe more years. His face at the fatidic Lost Pet Grievance of Damien is one of pure, true devastation.
  • I Have Many Names: Fred Platt, Jake "The Texan" Smith Jr., "El Diablo" and of course Jake "The Snake" Roberts.
  • Immune to Drugs: Before being taken in under the wing of Diamond Dallas Page for physical and mental rehabilitation, Jake was probably the biggest codifier of this trope in the industry; fans and peers alike were continuously astonished how he was still alive considering his daily habit of hard drugs.
  • Impersonation Gambit: "El Diablo" was this and not a Charlie Brown from Outta Town in a match where Jake was about to face Sid. Incidentally, in AAA this was his other moniker besides of "The Snake".
  • Instrument of Murder: Honky Tonk Man once hit Jake with a real guitar instead of a breakaway prop, legitimately injuring him and leading to a serious painkiller addiction.
  • Irony: Did you know Jake "the Snake" Roberts is actually a self-confessed real-life ophidiophobe? Yeah, he was afraid of snakes himself in real life. This despite the fact that he actually was forced to carry around and had to take care of his various ophidians himself while on the road having absolutely zero control over them.
    “I hated the sons of bitches, I’m terrified of them!”
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Jake's attempt to take a steel chair to Miss Elizabeth, Savage's valet.
    • Precisely his plan for The Warrior...although he had to settle down for Sid.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: One of his signature moves.
  • Knight of Cerebus: As a heel. Especially in the early 90's, where he committed some of the most evil acts a heel had ever done at that point. He even proved to be Eviler than Thou to The Undertaker, himself a Knight of Cerebus, causing Taker to end their Villain Team-Up and pull a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Lean and Mean: While rehabbing from neck surgery, Jake started using steroids and working out like crazy to build muscle. At his first meeting with Vince McMahon, Vince told him to stop bodybuilding and slim back down, as he believed that Jake’s skinny and "sensuous" physique was a major part of the character.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • WWF President Jack Tunney banned Jake's poisonous snake from ringside... so Jake hid his snake bag UNDER the ring instead.
    • He "won" Ted DiBiase's Million Dollar Beltnote , by asserting the Exact Words told to him by "The Million Dollar Man": "Just come and get it!". Jake just had to wait for Millionaire Ted to steamroll on the poor Jobber Lee Peak, then slithered under the bottom rope and smacked Di Biase unconscious.
  • Morality Pet: The kayfabe death of his favorite snake, Damien, after Earthquake squashed it, prefigured a very serious Face–Heel Turn, and though it wasn't stated outright as the reason for the change, it makes for a logical Start of Darkness.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast:
    • If monikers like "The Snake" or "El Diablo" don't warn you about the character, nothing will do.
    • It applies to his pets, too. Damien, Lucifer and Revelations.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: He was already one of the vilest characters in wrestling history, but his AEW appearances have him giving veiled, innuendo-laced Stay in the Kitchen and Dirty Old Man comments to Brandi Rhodes, and then drape a python over her while straddling her prone body.
  • Porn Stache: Given his "sensuous" persona, he's being sporting one throughout his career.
  • Power Stable:
  • Red Baron: "The Texan", "El Diablo" and "The Snake".
  • Secret-Identity Identity:
    • From the documentary Beyond the Mat:
      Vince Mc Mahon: "I was never able to tell the difference between "Jake Roberts the performer" and "Jake Roberts the person", because frankly I never knew which one I was talking to. I don't know that they're not the same."
    • Now let's hear it from the man himself in Dark Side of the Ring:
      Roberts: "Jake Roberts never had a fucking problem in his life, i mean he'll fuck up with... about, anybody and he's going to do what he pleases and he's going to go on with his life i mean, don't fuck with him or he'll fuck you up. Aurelian Smith on the other hand is a human being and he cares about other people, he made some mistakes, he's a recovering alcoholic and addict. So yeah! That guy has problems, Jake "The Snake" doesn´t."
  • Silver Tongue: A golden standard in Pro Wrestling, no less!
  • Small Role, Big Impact: In regards to the rise of Steve Austin and the Attitude Era in general. As Peter Rosenberg puts it in the episode of Biography: WWE Legends:
    "If Jake the Snake isn't a born-again Christian, then he never references John 3:16. And if Jake doesn't reference John 3:16, there's no Austin 3:16."
  • Smug Snake: ...we don't need to delve too much into that topic, right?
  • Snakes Are Sexy: His "Pleasure and Pain" promo at SummerSlam '88, with his then-wife, the Nancy Benoit lookalike Cheryl.
  • Soft-Spoken Sadist:
    • Most of his contemporaries screamed promos at the top of their lungs. Jake got his point across by hardly ever raising his voice, and was all the more frightening for it.
      Mick Foley: "Without ever raising his voice, he was able to spellbind an audience."
    • One legendary bit had him simply moving his mouth without making sounds, causing the audience to wonder if his microphone had gone out. After a few seconds...
      Roberts: "I just got everyone in this arena to pay attention to me and I wasn't saying a word."
  • Staring Down Cthulhu: That's how he got André the Giant's respect in the lockers. André didn't like Jake very much when he was the newcomer, so The Big Guy confronted The Snake who, true to his own character, simply stood up and told The Giant that being both professionals, they shouldn't have a beef eachother.
  • Still Got It: After decades away from the ring and all his substance and health issues, Jake is clearly too old and worn out to actually wrestle any more. But he still has his mouth and, more importantly his evil, evil mind, and after all these years, you would have to struggle real hard to think of anyone in the entire wrestling business who could give better promos than he does.
  • Superior Successor: His driving motivation was to achieve this, becoming so famous and successful in the ring that he totally eclipsed his father’s legacy. A fitting revenge on a man who told him to his face that he’d never amount to anything. As Jake was one of the top stars of the WWF during its biggest boom period, and Grizzly Smith is largely unknown by all except older/hardcore territory wrestling fans, he largely succeeded.
  • Talk Show with Fists: "The Snake Pit"... yeah, this was a literal case.
  • Unrelated Brothers: Inverted. Jake's brother was wrestler Sam Houston, and their sister was Women's Champion Rockin' Robin. Neither relationship was ever acknowledged.
  • Weaponized Animal: From time to time he employed Damien to choke his opponents up.
  • Wedding Smashers: Jake and his ally the Undertaker destroyed not a wedding but Savage and Elizabeth's wedding reception.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: A psych-out technique he used on many wrestlers, most notably Andre the Giant and Kamala.
  • Wild Card: A an evil version who could still be good for as long as he needed to.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Slapped Elizabeth hard across the face and later tried to attack her with a steel chair.
    • His appearances at AEW have him verbally denigrating and threatening Brandi Rhodes in order to provoke Cody. It worked the last time...
  • Wrestling Psychology: Jake is widely considered to be one of the finest practitioners of wrestling psychology, to the point where younger wrestlers like Randy Orton are often sent to him for an education in this fine art. Despite having a pot belly, skinny legs, and a quite limited moveset, Jake was always massively over with the fans due to a combination of his classic promos and uncanny knack to always do the right thing in the ring when it was the right time to do it.
  • Wrestling Family: He is the son of wrestler Grizzly Smith, the sibling of Sam Houston and Rockin' Robin, and the uncle of Samantha Starr.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: Damien was so damn famous that WWF made a toy out of him and cleverly avoided paying Jake any royalties by simply dubbing it “SNAKE”! His action figures also had the obscure-but-not-forgotten unnamed King cobra, the one who gnawed on Randy Savage’s arm.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: If one of his schemes went south, Jake knows he can always improvise on the fly!
  • Zen Survivor: He was DDP's mentor, who in gratitude became Jake's sponsor years later, saving his life.

"Trope me."

Alternative Title(s): Jake The Snake Roberts