In the late 90s at the height of pro wrestling's popularity, Barry W. Blaustein's pro wrestling documentary, Beyond The Mat, hit theatres. The film gave viewers an unprecedented behind the scenes look at the business and focused on several pro wrestling legends, notably Mick Foley, Terry Funk and Jake "The Snake" Roberts.
That movie followed Roberts as he tried to reunite with his estranged daughter, the storyline that many believe was used for the critically acclaimed film The Wrestler in 2008. In the film, Roberts was shown wrestling in small towns and smoking crack cocaine in his hotel room. Roberts' story in the film ended on a negative note, with Blaustein noting that Roberts spent considerable time in jail and that he had not spoken to his daughter since their reunion earlier in the film.
Fast forward thirteen years to 2012, and Roberts is in even worse condition. Filmmaker Steve Yu suggested to Diamond Dallas Page that they help turn Roberts' life around and film the experience for a documentary. Roberts moved in with DDP and worked to get sober and back in shape using Page's DDP YOGA program. Two years later, The Resurrection of Jake "The Snake" is screened at the Slamdance film festival.
The film gives viewers a look at Roberts' wrestling career and eventual downfall due to drug and alcohol addiction. When Roberts is first approached by Page in the film, he is over 300 pounds and can barely move. Roberts loses some weight and moves in with Page and starts his recovery.
It's definitely not a smooth ride. Shortly after Roberts moved in with Page, there is a scene where Page and Roberts are calling me about this story regarding Roberts appearing intoxicated at an independent wrestling event. Roberts denied the story, claiming that he had only had two beers. The next scene features Roberts returning from a trip clearly intoxicated, however once again using the "two beers" excuse.
Dealing with a recovering addict can be frustrating, and it is frustrating watching Roberts slip several times just when he is appearing to turn his life around. Page and Roberts taking in Scott Hall is also featured, although that story is not as well fleshed out.
The film ends with Page inducting Roberts into the WWE Hall of Fame last year. It is quite the remarkable ride, and especially amazing considering his progress from moving in with Page to being inducted into the Hall of Fame took place in just over 15 months. Roberts looks like a completely different person at the end of the film compared to the beginning.
The film is definitely a must-see, and not just for wrestling fans. Roberts' story is one that everyone can relate too, and it shows that no matter how hard you fall, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. And the viewers finally get to see Roberts re-united with his children 16 years after Beyond The Mat hit the screens.