Jake "The Snake" brings professional, personal stories to the stage
Unspoken Word tour comes to Thunder Bay on February 15
Former professional wrestler and WWE Hall of Fame member Jake "The Snake" Roberts was known for many things during his career, including his cold, calculating persona, his famous DDT finisher and, of course, the live python he'd bring to the squared circle.
But over the years, Roberts also became known for something else — his struggles with addiction.
"I was sexually abused," Roberts said in a recent interview. "Tough start in life. Genetically, my grandfather was an alcoholic too. Genetics were there, and certain things happened to push me to want to be medicated."
"I wanted to forget what had happened," he said. "And I wanted to feel good about myself, but it's kinda hard to feel good about yourself when this crap is going on. Of course, once you get into the disease, then it takes over.
"Now, the only good times you have is when you're ripped, and that's the big lie — drinking does not make anything any better, it just compounds the problem."
Visiting Thunder Bay
Roberts is very open about these struggles now. In fact, it's a topic that will be heavily featured when Roberts takes to the stage at the Finlandia Club on Feb. 15 for a stop on his Unspoken Word tour.
"That's the goal — go up there and let it fly," he said. "I'm there also to reach out to people that are struggling, and I make myself available after the show to talk to people one-on-one if they're having a bad time or if know somebody that's having a tough time.
"I try to get them pointed in the right direction."
And Roberts has no regrets about sharing such personal experiences with a wide audience (his successful attempt to get his life back on track was the focus on the 2015 documentary The Resurrection of Jake The Snake, a film that doesn't gloss over the low points).
"I realize that it helps me by being open, it helps me to talk about it," he said. "One thing I've learned about addiction: if you bring it to the light, it wants to run away. It doesn't want to be dealt with, it doesn't want to be talked about."
"By being open about it, it does help me with my recovery."
Bigger than life
But the Unspoken Word tour also harkens back to the good days, with Roberts taking the audience to the rings, dressing rooms and backstage areas of professional wrestling.
"People want to hear this stuff," Roberts said. "They want to hear what's happening back there, what goes on before a match, what do these guys do to each other."
"Really crazy stuff happened, really funny stuff happened. Sometimes it involved the snake, sometimes it didn't."
The fascination with the wrestling business is understandable, Roberts said.
"We're bigger than life," he said. "They want to be able to beat the bad guys up, they want to come out on top."
"I understand that."
Still a fan
In any case, Roberts says his in-ring days are behind him.
"I'm past that," he said with a chuckle. "I don't want to hurt myself any more."
But he still watches wrestling (he singled out WWE's Bray Wyatt as someone he's a particular fan of).
"It's not something you can walk away from," Roberts said. "My love affair with wrestling will be there until the day I die."
And if anyone out there is considering taking a run at being a professional wrestler, Roberts has some advice.
"The first thing you need to do is get your butts in shape," he said. "And the second thing you need to do is find a good teacher, somebody that's been there, somebody that's been to the top."
"It's a different game at this level, and to be really successful, you need to understand that, to hang out with somebody that's made that journey up the ladder."
Jake "The Snake" Roberts and comedian Alex Ansel perform at the Finlandia Club on February 15.