Stardom To Struggles: Exploring Jake “The Snake” Roberts’ Turbulent WCW Journey

The Captivating Jake The Snake Roberts

Photo Credit: WWE.

With his eerily soft, cold tone and pet snake by his side, Jake Roberts captured wrestling fans’ attention in the ’80s and ’90s.

Jake The Snake Roberts’ Controversial WCW Stint

Jake Roberts with one of his snakes. Despite snakes being a huge part of his gimmick, according to Roberts, he was deathly afraid of them!
Photo Credit: WWE.

Despite never holding a title in the World Wrestling Federation, he was a revered member of the roster, and his feuds with “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, and “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase stand the test of time.

“The Snake,” however, was never regarded with such status in WCW. This is the fascinating story of Roberts’s short, controversial run in WCW.

Jake Roberts – Holding Up The WWF in 1992

Photo Credit: WWE.

Jake Roberts was dissatisfied by 1992. Pat Patterson had been briefly taken off the WWF booking committee after a scandal. Roberts previously asked for a place on the writing panel, and now a hole had been left that Jake thought he could fill.

Despite Patterson’s absence, Vince left the position vacant out of respect for Pat. This infuriated Roberts.

Not only did Roberts feel that he was being lied to, having been promised the position from Vince in the past, Roberts felt betrayed. In response, he threatened to no-show WrestleMania if he was not granted a release from his contract.

Facing The Undertaker at WrestleMania 8

Undertaker stands tall over Jake Roberts at WrestleMania 8.
Photo Credit: WWE.

Roberts was set to face the still relatively new Undertaker at WrestleMania VIII, and a win for the “Dead Man” would have further cemented him as a truly unstoppable force in the company.

Moments before showtime, Jake Roberts threatened to walk out before the match if Vince didn’t accept his release. Vince gave in, promising Jake that his release would be served, thus allowing the biggest wrestling show of the calendar year to go on as planned.

Roberts cleanly and decisively put over the Undertaker, becoming the second victim in his storied streak. Here, he made Taker look like a megastar on his way out of the company.

Promises Unfulfilled in WCW

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Being a massive name from the WWF, Jake Roberts was signed to rival company WCW in 1992 by then-President Kip Frye. Roberts was offered a multi-million-dollar deal. All he had to do was wait for his 90-day no-compete contract to expire.

Then, on the 87th day, Frye was replaced with Bill Watts.

Bill Watts’s Grudge Against Jake Roberts

Photo Credit: WWE.

Bill Watts still had a legitimate grudge against Jake Roberts due to their time together in Mid-South Wrestling. Watts reduced Jake’s reported 3.5 million dollar deal* to $200,000. Having already burned bridges with the WWF, there was nowhere else for him to go.

(*$3.5 million is a figure Roberts gave in WWE’s “Jake The Snake Roberts – Pick Your Poison” documentary release. This figure may not be entirely accurate.)

Speaking about his WCW contract in an interview with Hannibal TV, Roberts admitted his deal with WCW was already in place before his WrestleMania 8 match. However, the contract hadn’t yet been signed.

“I negotiated one hell of a deal, a multi-million-dollar deal,” said Roberts. “I left the WWF, and I had to wait 90 days. Within those 90 days, Bill Watts went into power at WCW, and he tore my contract up in my face and laughed at me.”

Roberts continued, “[Watts] knew that I had already quit one place and couldn’t go back. So now instead of getting the big-money contract, I got peanuts, man. Peanuts.”

Despite receiving a substantially lower contract than the original offer, Roberts made his debut for the Georgia-based WCW in August of ’92. He immediately entered into a feud with Sting.

Jake Roberts Make His WCW Debut

Photo Credit: WWE.

After attacking Sting multiple times and winning a 4-on-4 elimination tag match at Clash of the Champions XX, where Jake Roberts scored the pinfall victory over Sting, their match was set for Halloween Havoc 1992.

Held under “Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal” rules, the roulette wheel was not rigged, and both wrestlers legitimately had no idea what match stipulation they would have.

The Coal Miner’s Glove Match

The Coal Miner's Glove is hoisted atop a pole before Sting and Jake Roberts face off at Halloween Havoc 1992.
Photo Credit: WWE.

In the end, the “Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal” landed on what observers believed to be the worst option – the Coal Miner’s Glove match.

In this match, a loaded glove with metal wrapped around the knuckles was hoisted on top of a pole for a wrestler to collect and use as a weapon.

The match itself was generally regarded as a ten-minute drag — a shame given the two competitors involved. This pole hovered fifteen feet over the turnbuckle, making trying to climb it difficult and unsafe.

The match was also billed as non-sanctioned, so there were no disqualifications for common WCW illegalities such as throwing an opponent over the top rope, throwing an opponent into the ring post, or hitting a top rope diving attack. The Bill Watts era also ushered in a time of no outside mats, adding more real danger to this bout.

The ending came when Sting hit Roberts with the miner’s glove, knocking Roberts to the mat as he tried to keep his own snake from biting him (which looked a bit hokie as in reality, it was pretty obvious Roberts was trying to get the snake to bite him).

Trouble With The Snake After the Coal Miner’s Glove Match

Photo Credit: WWE.

After the match, the snake bit Jake Roberts, and you could see the fangs digging into Roberts’s face with blood flowing out. Lucky for Jake, anti-cobra venom was available at ringside, as referenced by Jim Ross multiple times throughout the match.

The match has since been largely panned, with Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer giving it an abysmal 0.25 out of 5 stars.

After this pay-per-view loss, Jake Roberts was set to face Dusty Rhodes in the first round of the King of Cable tournament, but Jake left before this could ever go down. He was only in the company for a few months.

Why Jake Roberts Cut His WCW Run Short

Jake Roberts makes his way to the ring at WCW Halloween Havoc 1992.
Photo Credit: WWE.

Citing personal demons as the reason for his release from WCW, Jake Roberts and his issues with substance abuse became an issue for bookers to deal with.

“[My time in WCW] didn’t last long because of Bill Watts and his great thinking that it would be better to destroy the Jake ‘The Snake’ character. He thought that would make WCW better. No, it just made you weaker because you just killed off a guy who can draw you money.”

Roberts continued, “When [Watts] banned the snake, that’s when I went into rehab, and he fired me.

“I wanted to sue Bill Watts to get him fired, and that worked out.”

The Circumstances Surrounding Bill Watts’s WCW Departure

Photo Credit: WWE.

The circumstances surrounding Bill Watts’s departure from WCW in 1993 are controversial.

Before being hired by WCW, Watts made controversial statements concerning race and sexual orientation. This was known before being hired by WCW, but Turner president at the time, Bill Shaw, was satisfied with the explanations Watts gave during the interview process.

However, a year later, wrestling journalist Mark Madden brought the statements Watts had made to baseball great Hank Aaron, the then vice president of the Turner organization with the Atlanta Braves. Aaron then pushed for Watts’ removal.

While Madden takes credit for Watts getting fired, Watts disputes this, stating he was not fired for the comments he made but quit his position before Aaron got involved out of frustration over “backstabbing.” Ole Anderson would replace Watts in the company.

Jake Roberts has also gone on record by saying he also played a role in Watts’ removal.

“When [Watts] had the snake banned, I was furious. I saw what they were doing and how they were trying to destroy my character and me. That wasn’t going to happen, so I talked to my lawyer. My lawyer asked, ‘What would happen if you checked yourself into rehab?’ I responded, ‘He would fire me in a heartbeat and take the rest of my money.’ And my lawyer said, ‘Let’s do that.’ So I did.”

Roberts continued, “From there, WCW went to Equal Opportunity employers. I said, ‘Look, I’m trying to do the right thing by getting clean and sober, and this guy (Watts) punished me for that.'”

Roberts would eventually get the money that was withheld from him by Watts.

Eric Bischoff Takes Over

Photo Credit: WWE.

In the years that followed, Eric Bischoff would take the helm in WCW, and lots of money was being thrown around. While this would have been a great time for Roberts to jump back over to WCW, it wasn’t to be.

“Ted Turner had this policy that if you sued him, you can’t work for him. I [screwed] myself, didn’t I?”

Aftermath

Photo Credit: WWE.

Jake Roberts’s battle with sobriety has been a topic well covered over the years, but thankfully, his life has since been saved by fellow WCW star Diamond Dallas Page and his DDP Yoga program.

While his run in WCW was a dark time in his life and career, it was only but a small blip on his impressive resume.

The Secret History of WWE’s Scott Steiner – 25 Notorious Tales

Ribbing, numerous clashes with the law, and Steiner Math, too, this is the shocking, controversial story of Scott Steiner!
Photo Credit: WWE.

“While on a business trip to meet Vince McMahon, New Japan officials were all found sleeping in catering. The culprit? The Steiners.”

Ribbing, numerous clashes with the law, and Steiner Math, too, learn the controversial story of Scott Steiner!

Katie Vick – Behind WWE’s Most Shameful TV Segment

The Legend of Katie Vick, featuring Kane and Triple H.
Photo Credit: WWE.

Bruce Prichard: "Vince McMahon was like, ‘I love it! That’s perfect!’ I lost a couple of crew members because of this shoot that were highly offended at the subject matter."

In 2002, Katie Vick was introduced to the WWE audience. Many consider what followed one of the most tasteless segments in television history!

Learn more: Katie Vick: Behind WWE’s Most Shameful Storyline

Wrestlers Who Live Unique Lives Outside of the Ring

Asuka, Mustafa Ali, and Chris Jericho have all lived unique lives outside of the wrestling ring!
Photo Credit: WWE.

The lives these wrestlers live outside of the ring may surprise you!

“Straight after matches, without time to shower, he would serve his shift as a police officer. He kept quiet to coworkers about his life on the side as he didn’t want the attention.”

Learn more here!

Rick Rude: A Ravishing Man with a Tragic End

Rick Rude was more than "Ravishing."
Photo Credit: WWE.

“He refused to budge.”

Rick Rude was a unique, once-in-a-lifetime kind of wrestler. He went by the nickname “Ravishing” — and rightfully so. He had a solid moveset, great looks, and unbridled arrogance with the in-ring skill to back it up. He played hard in the ring but even harder out of it.

Learn his tragic story.

Mr Perfect Curt Hennig – A Great Life with an Unfortunate End

On camera, Curt Hennig was arrogant, and he backed up his Mr. Perfect persona brilliantly. However, outside of the ring, it was a different story. Here is the story of an extraordinary life with an unfortunate end.
Photo Credit: WWE.

On camera, Curt Hennig was arrogant, and he backed up his Mr. Perfect persona brilliantly. However, outside of the ring, it was a different story.

Learn the story of an extraordinary life with an unfortunate end.

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Griffin Kaye is a life-long pro wrestling fan and historian with a love for '80s and '90s WWF, the NWA, WCW, ECW, and AEW. His favorite wrestlers include Ricky Steamboat, Bret Hart, William Regal, Tito Santana, Stan Hansen, Mr Perfect, Ric Flair, and Chris Jericho. He can be reached on Twitter @GriffinKaye1, as well as on Instagram at @TheGriffinKaye and @WrestlingInTheYears.