Arnold Furious: Jake Roberts has a stellar reputation as a storyteller, an orator and a psychologist. He’s been the brains behind many a wonderful promo or angle and was truly at his best during his time with the WWF. When he was a superstar, few shone like ‘the Snake’. The hosts are Craig DeGeorge and Luscious Johnny V. The latter seems to be either channelling Nic Cage in “Deadfall” or rather, seeing as that movie was released in 1993, Cage was mimicking the insanity of Johnny V. Seriously, he’s batshit crazy, occasionally making barking noises at the camera while pretending to be a snake.
Jake Roberts vs. Scott McGhee
Also available on Villains of the Squared Circle. From April 1986 and not long after Jake debuted in the WWF. Young Scotty McGhee was a star around the NWA territories and was a decent worker but he was too small for the WWF’s model so he became enhancement, and his WWF run has nothing worth mentioning. He has communication issues with Jake over the flow as Jake is more inclined to beg off and make it about the psychology. That’s not working hard, that’s working smart. Gorilla points out they’re both second generation wrestlers but doesn’t mention their fathers, presumably because they have different surnames and explaining it would take ages. McGhee ducks too early on a backdrop and gets clocked with the DDT. Tidy little jobber match. Jake whips out an enormous snake to celebrate.
Final Rating: **
Jake Roberts vs. Ricky Steamboat
From Saturday Night’s Main Event about a month after the previous McGhee bout and after Jake had taken apart George Wells at WrestleMania II. At the time Jake was not much more than a generic heel who happened to have a snake with him for effect. His character hadn’t quite gotten over. That would change right fuckin’ here. Jake lariats Steamboat off the apron before the match starts and DDT’s him on the floor. Steamboat had told Jake it’d be ok, but misjudged the bump somewhat and knocked himself out. Jake throws the snake over him as Vince McMahon LOSES IT on commentary: “That’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life” .
Tuesday Night Titans
Jake introduces Mean Gene to his snakes, while poking them with a stick. He comes off well during the segment as he’s not only knowledgeable but he’s also a real jerk. Everything he says about the snakes is a metaphor for himself too. The crowd chuckle at Gene and Hayes getting freaked out, but Jake deadpans everything. He’s downright scary and intense, happily comparing himself to serial killers
Jake Roberts vs. Ricky Steamboat
From Boston Garden some three months after the DDT on the floor. Awesome psychology in the early going as Roberts blocks all of Steamboat’s chops by just getting his hands up. It shows he’s scouted Ricky’s offence and came prepared with a strong defence for it. Steamboat meanwhile looks flustered by Jake basically employing a boxing stance rather than a wrestling one. The great thing about Jake is he’d do something different. You don’t have enough imagination from some top line wrestlers. When borrowing from someone who’s more creative, that person is Jake Roberts. Or someone like him. With Steamboat unable to mount any offence, Jake grabs his arm and completely controls the match. Steamboat doesn’t have the strength or the leverage to escape and Jake knows it, often blocking the counters before they happen. Jake opens himself up by trading on strikes and Steamboat chops him in the throat. I’m disappointed Jake fell into that trap. He usually isn’t bothered about crowd perception and didn’t need to get into a fight with a man he was outclassing with mind games. They run a much better sequence where Jake goes to block again, but Steamboat punches him in the gut, thus leaving Jake exposed for the chops. The best part about all this is that essentially they’ve taken one move, the chop, and made an entire match out of avoiding it and hitting it. Jake, having taken it a few times realises how dangerous it is, and provokes Ricky into chopping him by the ring post, and Steamboat chops the post. This leaves Ricky wide open for a vicious assault on a now injured body part. Even better is when Steamboat tries to mount a comeback Jake just uses the arm to counter. So Steamboat can’t even grab a rest hold to recover the injury. What’s worse for Steamboat is Jake worked his left arm. Jake is right handed so Steamboat can’t block Roberts’ stronger punches. Jake’s only mistake is going too far and trying to choke Steamboat with his wrist tape. The ref sees it, takes it off him and Steamboat hangs Jake up on the ropes. If he’d just carried on doing what was working he’d have probably won the match. Steamboat thankfully sells the injured arm to make all that work worthwhile. The ref gets bumped with Jake in charge and he has Steamboat pinned but has to go and wake the ref up. When the ref comes around Steamboat surprises Jake with a roll up for the pin. Wonderful psychology over the chops. Jake’s storytelling was really strong during the match and Steamboat played his role to perfection. The only thing it was missing was a DDT and Jake delivers that post match before unleashing his snake too. Dick Slater and Ted Arcidi make the save.
Final Rating: ***¾
Jake Roberts vs. The Junkyard Dog
This is from late ’86 in Phoenix. Jake has the common sense to avoid the kneeling headbutts by just moving out of the way. That’s about as good at this one gets. JYD can’t be bothered. He grabs an armbar and just sits in it. The very definition of a rest hold. Jake feels his only possible route of entertainment is to sell a lot and keep avoiding those headbutts. It’s a variation on the theme from the last match and the chops. The idea being if Jake avoids a headbutt for long enough, the crowd will pop huge when one finally lands. Jake completely oversells them to compensate for JYD doing so very little else. Jake can dog it, no pun intended, as bad as a lazy veteran too, and just slaps on an extended chinlock. This match is made doubly worse by hosts DeGeorge and V running their own shit-awful commentary. They brawl outside where Jake opens up the snake bag and takes so long over it that he gets counted out. Match ran about 9 minutes of non-action. Would have been better with Bill Watts booking in a more Southern racially charged atmosphere.
Final Rating: ½*
Jake Roberts vs. King Kong Bundy
Jake eventually got turned face by the fans, who thought he was too cool to be a heel. Jake turning face really took the edge off him, which he didn’t get back until he started messing with Randy Savage. Jimmy Hart is out here to scout the opponent for his charge, the Honky Tonk Man. Keep in mind that this is after the guitar shot that messed up Jake’s neck, which is shown later, and ruined his IC title run that subsequently never happened. The match is so terminally boring the focus is on Damien, who keeps peaking out of a hole in the side of his bag. By this point in time, early 1987, Bundy had dropped right down the card. Babyface Jake shows less interest in psychology and resorts to the kick/punch “WWF main event style”. Bundy runs through an assortment of rest holds while Bobby Heenan and Jimmy Hart contribute to commentary. The ref gets so bored that he counts Bundy out, in a lousy finish. The only amusement comes from Jake chasing Jimmy Hart with Damien afterwards. Awful, awful match that went nowhere at a sluggish pace. Babyface Jake was often content to let his heel opponents get themselves over, but guys like Bundy didn’t have much to get over. The result is two guys sitting around in rest holds, both waiting for the other to do something.
Final Rating: DUD
Jake Roberts vs. King Kong Bundy
Because that last match was so very thrilling we get a rematch on Saturday Night’s Main Event. This is slightly more energised, given that it’s a big TV match, with Jake avoiding Bundy to the crowd’s amusement. It doesn’t take Bundy long to go into the rest holds but Jake seems wiser to his game and makes a point of raising the pace. Bobby Heenan tries to run off with Damien but Jake puts a stop to that. Jake’s selling is decent but Bundy just runs into him rather than doing anything aggressive. “That Bundy is awful isn’t he?” – Jesse Ventura. Quite. Jake goes after Damien, the ref stops him, so Jake knees the ref for the DQ. Another bad match with a bad finish. Jake botches the DDT on Bundy to cap off the horror. I guess Bundy is too fat to tuck his head in.
Final Rating: ½*
The Snake Pit
It’s part Jake promo, which are always good, and partly clips from Honky Tonk Man’s visit to the Snake Pit. Jake was great as an interviewer and it’s a pity that aspect of his character never took off. I felt he was superior as a story man than a wrestler. The WWF should have utilised him that way when he came back in 1996. The guitar shot on this is EVIL. The guitar wasn’t gimmicked and Jake took it square in the dome. He ended up with a serious neck injury because of it, one that could easily have ended his career.
Jake Roberts vs. The Honky Tonk Man
From WrestleMania III: Jake has Alice Cooper in his corner to counter Honky’s Jimmy Hart. The star power helps the crowd stay on the buzz it developed during the last match, so this isn’t a lull like it could have been. There’s a lot of talk about wins and losses in wrestling and how much they mean but there are some wrestlers who thrive on the win-loss record. HTM is one of them. True once he was IC champion he didn’t win a lot but, he didn’t lose the belt. That’s where most of his heat came from. You can only get so much by singing badly, Jeff Jarrett. In the build up to this match HTM nailed Jake with a guitar shot on the Snake Pit, but it wasn’t one of those fake guitars filled with flour. It was an fibreglass and it didn’t break. So Jake was carrying a bad neck injury from it. There’s a rumour that HTM was only going to transition the IC belt to Jake originally but the neck problem stopped that from happening. Jake was a hard guy to market. The fans loved him as a heel, but when he turned face he lost some of that vibe that made him popular. Basically Jake was a tweener. Because HTM dominates most of the match, it’s not particularly good. He leaned towards the Memphis approach of a heel doing nothing and getting booed for it. Which makes sense, in a way, as Jake got himself turned face by behaving like one and therefore blew his shot at a program with Hogan. Jimmy Hart stops the DDT and Honky gets booed loudly for stealing a roll up win. Not much doing here. Honky wasn’t always on his game, and he wasn’t here for whatever reason. The crowd are more interested in Alice Cooper torturing Jimmy Hart with the snake after the match. HTM’s approach does make sense as they’d never get reactions for wrestling, not after the five star awesomeness of Savage-Steamboat, so he went for the more traditional heat.
Final Rating: ½*
You’d think they’d have dug out a match with Jake actually winning to round the tape out. Maybe getting his heat back against Honky for the evil guitar shot? That’d make sense right?
Jake Roberts vs. Kamala
Oh, f*ck you guys. Seriously. The only thing of interest is Kamala’s handler Kim Chee attacking Jake and unmasking to reveal he was the Honky Tonk Man. Presumably, only for one match. Otherwise, he must have really needed the cash. His singing career must have been up shit creek, sans paddle. Jake doesn’t even win here! He jobs to Kamala after the interference. Just a terrible way to finish the tape.
Final Rating: ½*
Summary: It’s gold when Steamboat is involved. The start of the tape, when Jake was heel interestingly enough, is terrific. But then he turns face and the WWF feed him an array of crap. Bundy, Kamala and a pre-turn JYD match. All bad. The Steamboat match on this tape is arguably their best encounter though, and Jake’s promos are always worthwhile. I’d rather they’d taken the Hulkamania 3 route (which chronicled the Hogan vs. Andre story), and just covered one feud on this tape, and got all the Steamboat stuff on here. Then it would have been an easy win.