I grew up with the WWF back in the ’80s. Every Saturday morning, my brother and I would watch Superstars. Even if we had Little League games, we’d just record that episode and watch it when we got home. We could never afford to get the pay per views, so we’d wait the usual 30 days for them to be released on video, and watch them then. One of the most memorable characters during that time was Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Whether he was a face (good guy) or heel (bad guy), his appearances were always memorable. I still cringe when I see the clip of Jake having a cobra “bite” “Macho Man” Randy Savage. Sure, I know now how they did that, but elementary school was terrified.
Roberts’ career wound down in the early ’90s, having one last hurrah losing to Steve Austin in the 1996 King of the Ring finals. If you’re a wrestling fan, you should know that as the birth of Austin 3:16. Roberts continued making appearances on the independent circuit, probably long after he should have retired. It’s here where things really took a turn for the worse for him. Several years ago, Roberts made an in-ring appearance while he was stumbling drunk, and was unable to perform. With the explosion of cell phone cameras, these instances could no longer be denied as idle gossip. For many years, it just seemed like a matter of time before Roberts overdosed. Fortunately, someone stepped in before that could happen.
And that’s where this documentary starts. Diamond Dallas Page, former wrestler and creator of DDP Yoga, decides that he’s going to intervene in the life of his longtime friend and mentor. From the beginning, DDP wanted to document the process, and brought in Steve Yu to document what they hoped would be Jake Roberts’ recovery.
I won’t lie, the beginning is painful to watch. Jake is not in good shape when they get to him. He had been drinking that day, but even more obvious were his physical limitations. He was unable to perform even the most basic of the yoga moves. This is partly due to his physical shape, and partly due to his drinking. After a couple sessions, DDP decides that the only way that they can really help Jake is to bring him back to his house, so that he and his crew can constantly keep an eye on him.
It’s in this living arrangement where the heart and value of this documentary lives. This story isn’t about pro wrestling, or really even a pro wrestler. It’s a story about two friends, where one is trying to save the other from his addictions. There are times when Jake relapses, sometimes flat out lying to those around him. There are times when DDP can’t handle things with Jake anymore, and has to vent. All of that is included in this documentary. But they continue on, because they love each other.
And while you see the struggles, you also see the hope. Jake keeps saying that he will not let his past define his destiny. So each time things get rough, they all bounce back. They don’t lose focus on the goal. They understand that this is bigger than the events of one night. And it’s inspiring. It’s heart-warming to actually see good news for once. Too often, the story we see is about how a beloved celebrity has died. And while the story of Jake the Snake could have had that sad ending, it didn’t. The story of Jake the Snake is about rebirth. It’s why I would suggest that everyone watch this movie, even if you have no idea who any of these people are. This movie has the ability to speak to you, and inspire you to either seek help in overcoming your demons, or sticking with your friends and give them the help they need to overcome theirs.