Jake "The Snake" Roberts Discusses His First WWF Run, Hating Snakes, Changing His Physique, More

Raj Giri of WrestlingINC.com recently interviewed legendary Superstar Jake "The Snake" Roberts, where he strictly discussed his first WWF run. In part one of our interview below, Roberts discussed signing with WWE, the "Snake" gimmick, hating snakes, working his first WrestleMania and more.

Make sure to check back tomorrow for the second and final part of our interview, where Roberts discusses his favorite opponents during that era, working with Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior being fired before their feud and much more.

WrestlingINC: I wanted to talk about '80's wrestling in the WWF, where you became a huge star. What do you remember about signing with the company?

Jake Roberts: Well, it was quite the experience. I had been working in Mid-South and not really being given a fair shake there. I was told I was number five on the babyface list, yet I was going on last every night. So, that kind of tells you something. Bill Watts hired a guy to be his administrator. It was Terry Taylor of all people, you know, the Red Rooster.

I remember going to talk to Terry and I said, 'Look, I'm number five on the babyface list, yet I'm going on last every night. This is just not going to work.' He said, 'Well, what can I tell you?' And I said, 'Well, I can tell you something. Here's two weeks notice and I'll see you.' So, that's what I did. I was young, dumb and stupid, not thinking. I didn't have a job set up. So, I went home that night saying, 'I really screwed up. I just quit my job and I don't have a place to go to get some work done.'

The next morning, I called Vince [McMahon] and I was told that he was going to be out of town for two weeks and that he would get back with me then. I thought, Oh, my god. Now, I've really screwed up. About 30 minutes later, the phone rang and it was Vince. He wanted me to fly up and meet with him, so I flew up and met with him. Basically, we sat down and he said, 'We have an idea of you wearing lime green pants or purple pants -- tights -- and having knee high lace up boots and carrying a snake.' I said, 'Dude, that's just not me. I wear karate pants and I wear slip on boots. Because the last thing I want to do when I do is know that I wasted 5 years of my life lacing up boots.'

I actually did do the math of that and if you spent 20 minutes a day lacing up your boots, it adds up over 15-20 years, man. So, it was going to be about four months of my life lacing up boots if I did that. So, that's the reason I went to pull ones. You know, it's funny how you think of stupid s--t, but I'm good at that. So, he just kind of looked at me and said, 'Well, that's a shame because there's somebody who's going to be wearing purple and lime green with knee high snake skin boots and they're going to make about a million a year.'

So, I looked at him and I said, 'You know what? I would look very good in spandex. With purple and green and knee high boots. I think I'd look just wonderful.' And that was how I went to work.

WrestlingINC: You used 'The Snake' moniker when you were with Mid-South and WCCW. Did you already own snakes, or was that something that Vince brought to you?

Roberts: No. I hated the sons of b-----s. I'm terrified of them.

WrestlingINC: So, I take it Vince came up with the idea?

Roberts: Well, no, I came up with the idea. In Mid-South, I wanted to use a snake and Bill Watts was quick to tell me that this isn't a damn circus. 'We're not going to have any circus clowns or circus geeks carrying snakes.' Gee, he was so right. What a stupid idea.

WrestlingINC: So when you went to WWF, did you pitch that idea to Vince?

Roberts: No, they had come back with it. They said, 'Have you thought about this before?' I said, 'Well, Jake 'The Snake'? Kind of fits.' [Laughs.] They said, 'Well, good. You're going to carry a snake.' I said, 'No problem.' Not thinking that I was terrified of them and hated the sons of b-----s. Next thing you know, I've got a damn snake... They supplied them. There was a guy in Stamford, Connecticut named Albert that supplied all the snakes.

WrestlingINC: Did you have to travel with it?

Roberts: Yes, I did. What a miserable damn job that was, carrying a 100 pound snake in a box and carrying my wrestling gear and clothes. Back then, we'd go on the road for a month to six weeks at a time. Carrying all that s--t was just really, really brutal, man. It really tore my ass up. You wake up in a hotel room at 5 AM -- there's no bellmen at the Red Roof. You've got to do it yourself. Then you get your rental car and you've got to turn that back in. So, you've got to take all that s--t back out and put it on the bus to the airport. Then, when you get there, you've got to carry it all the way over to the skycaps. If they are available because a lot of airports didn't have skycaps. So, what does that mean? That means I'm carrying that stupid s--t.

So, here I am carrying 150 pounds of gear, walking around with that stuff. That's not healthy to do, really. It wore my ass out.

WrestlingINC: So, you made your debut there and then a month later, you're on WrestleMania II. Did you expect to make the pay-per-view that fast?

Roberts: It kind of surprised me but they were trying to load all their guns at the time. That's where they did the three cities, so there was certainly room for me on the card somewhere.

WrestlingINC: You're debut -- though, I guess it wasn't technically your debut -- always sticks out in my mind. When you wrestled George Wells, put the snake on him and he started foaming at the mouth.

Roberts: It's funny what alka-seltzers will do for you. [Laughs.]

WrestlingINC: [Laughs.] It was effective. It was something that really stuck out in people's minds. But then, you had the feud with Ricky Steamboat. What was it like working with Ricky Steamboat?

Roberts: It was wonderful. We had actually been tag partners in the Carolinas a few times and any time around Ricky was great. Whether you were wrestling or just riding down the road.

WrestlingINC: Another thing that really stuck out back then was that you were kind of a pioneer in a sense that everyone during the era was really jacked up and had the bodybuilder physique and you became a huge star without having to do that. Do you think that held you back at all, not being the bodybuilder type?

Roberts: Well, I never really thought about it like that. But, no, I wasn't all jacked up and juiced up. The one time I did go up, it was after my neck surgery. I went up to about 275 pounds. I had gotten up juiced and jacked because I was trying to get myself over the neck surgery. I went in after the neck surgery to see Vince and he goes, 'That's not what we want.' I said, 'What are you talking about? This is not what you want?' Because I had really put on a lot of beef on my upper body.' He said, 'You know, if we wanted Hogan to carry a snake, we'd have Hogan carry a snake. We don't want you looking like that. You want you to be very sensuous, very sexual, smooth. Be different.

Well, ain't that a b---h. So, he told me that he didn't want to hear about me being in the gym. [Laughs.] So, I went home and sat by the pool for a month, snorted cocaine and drank. So, there you go. ... Well, I shouldn't have done what I did. That's for damn sure.

Make sure to check back tomorrow for the second and final part of our interview, where Roberts discusses his favorite opponents during that era, working with Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior being fired before their feud and much more.


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