Jake “The Snake” Roberts is a master storyteller.
30 years ago, I remember watching him on WWF Superstars every Saturday morning. Even as a child I knew that there was something different about Jake. He wasn’t like the other wrestlers. He never yelled, he never lost his cool…and that’s what drew you in. Every word was measured and purposeful and laced with bad intentions. Jake might not have had muscles coming out of his ears, but his words reassured you that like the snake he carried in his bag — he was quick, and he was deadly.
Now Roberts is using his words to educate, enlighten, and entertain. The WWE Hall of Famer is currently on his ‘Dirty Details’ Tour which comes to The Starland Ballroom during Wrestlemania weekend. We caught up with the legend to talk about the tour, his thoughts on wrestling today, and more.
You’ll be bringing your ‘The Dirty Details’ Tour to Starland Ballroom on Thursday April 4. I know you’ve done stand-up before, but can you talk about what people can expect from this show? Also what was the inspiration for it?
To be brutally honest, I went to see a Mick Foley show and after seeing it I said, ‘Oh my God, I know I could come up with some funnier stuff than that.’ Then I just sat down and said, okay, what would I talk about? Several of the guys that always told me, ‘Dude, you should take that show on the road and you could just tell stories man, because you got all this knowledge and stuff from all the years.’
I mean, if you’ve wrestled for 36 years, chances are you’ve got a couple of good stories to tell (laughs). I’ve got a well that runs mighty deep that I can pull from. I was thinking about this show in particular about just bringing up stuff that happened at Wrestlemanias. There’s things fans didn’t know about that, [whether] it happened in the back or maybe in the ring or maybe at a party afterwards. There were some horrendous things happen, man. It’s just insanity.
For instance at Wrestlemania 2… WWE was coming out of the gate it was still a new thing for them to do. And the logistics were crazy because they were doing it in three different locations. Just getting the talent in all the right places was a monumental task because they didn’t take off a week before to set this stuff up. You were wrestling up until the night before.
A few days before [Wrestlemania 2], I think we were in Hartford, Connecticut and they wanted to get all the guys measured for tuxedos. They measured everybody for tuxes to have for Mania in three days. I remember Don Muraco and Mr. Fuji going into the room to be measured and they came out and Morocco was giving Fuji crap. [Muraco said] ‘Fuji, you better not be eating, man. If you’re eating your tux won’t fit.’ [Fuji responded] ‘It’s three days, Don, don’t give me any crap.’ Well, then Mr Fuji went into the locker room and erased the numbers [for Muraco’s tuxedo size] and lowered it by four inches in the waist and in the jacket.
So come Mania, [Muraco’s] got to put that thing on there and brother it is not even close. They’re trying to lay him down on the floor to get his pants on. He trying to push his belly down so they can button the pants. They couldn’t button him. So they had to build a little contraption that kind of pulled him close enough to being shut. It was horrible, man. He wore a Cumberbun that overlapped down there so you can cover up his crotch area. He waddled down to the ring with that jacket and it was so tight he couldn’t even breathe. They wanted him to get in the ring but he couldn’t get up the steps because the pants were so damn tight.
Well, Muraco being Muraco, he tripped Fuji on the way back. And Fuji went down and he could not not get up because his pants were that tight. Don went back help to Fuji up, and when he did those pants to just exploded, man. It was like DiBiase with those rip off pants. It was, it was funnier than hell, man. And Fuji was going nuts and Muraco kept going “I told you not to eat Fuji, I told you not to eat.”
But that’s just one of those stories, man. I mean, there’s a million of them, and I’m going to blast out, man. I’ve got one that involves Donald Trump. That’ll be a good one to let go. The fans love it, they enjoy it. I enjoy telling it and I enjoy the Q and A. I enjoy hearing their thoughts and what they were doing back in the day when they were watching this and that for the first time. It’s a win-win situation for me and the fans. I’m really looking forward to doing this, plus we also do a meet and greet before the shows where we can take pictures and sign autographs. So if you got memorabilia one sign, bring it up and I will take care of it.
I remember as a kid watching you and you always were just an extremely cerebral, intelligent guy. However, doing a couple minute promo is much different from doing an hour long set. So, do you feel given your lengthy history of improvising promos, and calling matches in the ring made it easier for you to transition to this storytelling show? Was there some degree of difficulty?
No, it wasn’t difficult. What was difficult was just going out and doing it the first time. The last thing I want to do at my age is make an ass out of myself. Unless that’s my ultimate plan and there are days for that (laughs). I really don’t put things together. I just go by the seat of my pants, let my heart lead me and try to keep my head out of it. If I think about stuff, I screw it up.
That’s where guys make a mistake when they go out and do an interview. They try to memorize the thing and then go out and just say it. It doesn’t work like that, man. You’re [saying] something that somebody else has scripted. It’s not said in your tone or your cadence and it’s not right. So for me, I just go out there and we start to show and from then on I have no idea what’s going to come up next.
That’s amazing because I would figure since you seem like you’re so precise in what you said in the ring all these years that you would have had it mapped out.
No, I never did. All my years. I never mapped stuff that I was going to say. I was given a gift to gab, and being raised the way I was raised, I learned to lie at a very young age. I learned to read people at a very young age because back in those days, man, if I misread somebody, I was going to get hurt. You know sexually, physically, whatever. I hate to give credit where credit is due there. I had to learn, how not to piss so and so off. How not make someone mad. You learn how to do things because it’s a necessity of life and death brother. You pretty much get the game down because you got too much on the line to screw up. That’s where I’m at with all that and now it’s paying for itself now. All that abuse for all those years, I can now turn it into something positive.
When you’re just “flying by the seat of your pants” do you ever crack yourself up when you’re remembering a story?
Oh yeah, especially when the fans start asking questions at the Q & A. They’ll wake something up that I’ve forgotten about. Then all of a sudden it’ll come back to them and I just bust out in laughter and they’re like, ‘What is it?’ I’m like, ‘Oh I can’t even tell you that. I’m sorry it’s too much.’ And then I go ahead and talk about it, of course. It’s uncensored, you can trust me on that and it’s a great time.
What does a show like this do for you personally? And what does has a feel for you personally after doing a show like that. Just talking about you talk about your experiences, positive or negative, what does that do for the soul?
It helps me immensely. Number one, I do talk about addiction and alcoholism during the show. I’m out there to help other people. If somebody’s struggling and you come to my show, give me the sign, slip me a note and I’ll be there for you. We’ll sit down and find a quiet place and I’ll try to help you because we all need help. But when I go out and do one of these shows it really makes me feel good because my brain starts working again. There had been a time when my brain was pretty cloudy. I couldn’t put sentences together very well. Now things have cleared up, getting sober and everything helped. I started using it [my brain] again. So that’s a good thing.
There’s something special about guys from your generation, that Hulkamania era. There’s still this immense popular, this near reverence for everyone from the top of the card to the preliminary guys. Why do people have such a fondness and affinity for the guys of this era?
Well, it’s real simple. We knew what the hell we were doing. The guys today, they don’t get an opportunity to learn their trade. They go to a school in a year, and then they’re expected to hold their weight on the main event Wrestlemania or something. That’s not fair. These guys aren’t learning the whole thing. We learned it from the inside and out and back and forth and in between. We went and wrestled in the same towns every week for years. And when you do that, you’ve got to expand your repertoire. You got to learn how to do things on the fly. Guys today, they cannot do things on the fly. They need a playbook and they do 16 of those numbers. And they put that together and they call that a match.
That’s not a match. You’re just going out and imitating moves. We knew what the hell we were doing. I don’t blame the guys [today] because they don’t have the opportunity to learn. It’s a shame because the art is dying. It will die if people don’t come up and grasp it, get it and carry it and then pass it on to somebody else. Guys today are locked down to doing 15 or 20 moves where they jump off the top of the cage. That doesn’t take a great wrestlers do that, that takes a damned idiot.
We didn’t ever destroy our own credibility. We never used a sledgehammer and the guy gets up, are you kidding me? What the hell these people thinking about when you destroy your own credibility, you don’t have nothing left.
Who’s someone in today’s scene that gets it, and you’d want to have a match with?
Bray Wyatt. Actually I’ve challenged him to a stripper’s pole match but he hasn’t accepted yet. I wouldn’t be surprised if he does though. I guarantee we could sell out the Garden, brother.