|Review by Atlee Greene|
When you think of those who epitomize professional wrestling in the mid 80’s to early 90’s, the three most prominent names are Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, and Macho Man Randy Savage. The electricity of the Warrior, the fever of The Madness, and the power of Hulkamania have left an indelible imprint on pop culture and resonate with the most novice spectator.
Jake “the Snake” Roberts fits into a pantheon of his own, and rides on an advanced placement level of performance that has not only captivated a worldwide audience but his skill has earned him the utmost respect of his colleagues.
Even if you never watched a single episode of WWF television (now WWE), chances are you know Roberts by two distinct characteristics: his signature maneuver, the DDT, and a giant python named Damien in a big green bag hoisted over his shoulder.
The Resurrection of Jake the Snake is directed by Steve Yu and chronicles Jake as he moves into the home of Diamond Dallas Page in 2012 and begins his new full time job of reclaiming his life and family by battling his demons that have haunted him his entire life.
The rise and seemingly never-ending fall of Jake Roberts is well-documented and known to even the most casual wrestling pundit.
It was surprising to hear that Roberts agreed to be filmed to such a personal extent and allow his vulnerability to be shown since he has voiced his disdain over the years for how he was portrayed in the 1999 film, Beyond the Mat. Roberts feels he was presented as the only wrestler with drug problems.
Through this document process, Director Steve Yu highlighted that pointing to the fame and adulation that comes with performing in front of sold-out arenas is oversimplifying the origin of Roberts’ addiction. A father’s desire for an infinite amount of more, more, more without a single ounce of adoration or support left his son with an empty heart and a feeling of worthlessness.
The question of “why am I so easy to cast aside?” from seemingly the one person who is supposed to love him unconditionally can make anyone feel they are defective beyond repair. Family, the catalyst for his trip towards rock bottom, has turned into his guiding light towards recovery.
Former professional wrestling star Diamond Dallas Page plays an integral role in helping Roberts with his physical and mental welfare. Page, unlike most wrestlers, found success after hanging up the boots. He started to travel down new avenues such as motivational speaking and his popular health system, DDP Yoga. Page comes off very well here because his passion exudes a genuine desire for a life changing outcome.
Yu documents Roberts’ highs and lows through this process of self-actualization with painstaking detail as he doesn’t just simply ask the right questions and make sure he is in position for a great camera shot. This is a labor of love since he is not only a wrestling fan but also sincerely wants Roberts to rise above. Yu takes on an impromptu role in the daily routine in Page’s house christened “The Accountability Crib.” As Page already knew before the start of this endeavor, Yu discovers that this process goes beyond the confines of wanting to see someone get back on track.
“If you’re a student of wrestling and you don’t watch Jake Roberts’ matches and interviews, then you’re missing out on one of the best ever.” Ted DiBiase
Throughout the film, various wrestlers such as Stone Cold Steve Austin, revere Roberts for his brilliance as a worker (insider term for wrestler).They want him to recover for the sake of his own well-being, but you can also sense a hint of frustration at Jake’s struggles because, from a wrestling perspective, it is comparable to watching Albert Einstein squander his gifts.
Wrestling inside the ring is not just doing flashy moves to get a reaction. It is about telling a story by listening to the crowd and doing the right moves at the right time, while selling the emotion of the bout. This is called ring psychology, and many wrestlers spend their entire career trying to master this art but never quite get a handle on it. Jake Roberts came out of the womb knowing how to put a wrestling match together, and he oozes creativity during an interview.
While there were a few faint moments where the subjects would grand stand for the camera, the passion, conviction, sweat, tears, and weight loss were certainly authentic as hard work fueled by the expression of “Progress not perfection” bared fruit in the form of fans paying for Jake’s shoulder surgery.
Jake sets a goal for himself by declaring his intentions to wrestle in one of WWE’s biggest matches, the Royal Rumble. His desire to make this a reality serves as a central focal point because Jake’s path towards sobriety will be a never-ending one. The fact that Roberts has a clear-cut objective, abstinence from alcohol, makes you want to cheer him even more.
The documentary is beautifully shot from the opening credits to the final frame. The film contains official footage from Jake Roberts’ WWE days, which is a real treat since the company is usually hard-pressed to sell the rights for their content to be used in movies and television.
The visuals of him in his prime, and then seeing him him 23 years removed from his prime and at his worst, amplifies the need for intervention, making this voyage towards wellness a powerful observation of the human spirit.