Now seems like a perfect time to take a look back at the life and career of Jake Roberts. It’s nearly Easter, after all, and few pro wrestling resurrections have been as dramatic as that of Jake “The Snake” Roberts.
Roberts has had a turbulent, troubled career (even by wrestling standards), but along the way, he established himself as one of the true originals in the business. A one of a kind, impossible to duplicate figure who has nonetheless served as inspiration for countless other wrestlers. He was a mulleted, mustachioed regular Joe and a simmering, smooth-talking American psycho all in one improbable package.
Here’s a few things you might not know about the baddest of the bad guys…
1. Jake Roberts comes from a wrestling family. It was rarely, if ever, mentioned on TV, but Jake Roberts (real name, Aurelian Smith, Jr.) wasn’t discovered by Vince McMahon at some particularly spooky truck stop. He was actually part of a wrestling family. His father was the massive, 6-foot-8 hillbilly wrestler Grizzly Smith, and his half-brother and sister were pretty-boy cowboy Sam Houston and late-80s WWF staple, Rockin’ Robin.
Luke Brown, and not-so-dear old dad, Grizzly Smith.
2. Jake’s dad never told him that it was fake as a kid. There’s a reason Jake never mentioned his family. By most accounts, Jake’s father (Aurelian Smith, Sr.) was not a good man. According to Jake, Grizzly not only didn’t wise up his children up to his line of work, he went to great lengths to fool them, often coming home wearing fake bandages and neck braces to sell his “injuries.” Unsurprisingly this was more than a bit traumatic for young Jake…
“To see him wrestling, and getting hurt, or so I thought, I thought it was very cruel. I thought my father was very cruel because he never wisened us kids up. He played it out at home, or whenever we’d see him. He’d have cuts and stuff. I had no idea he was the one doing that. I didn’t know that it was a business. I would cry myself to sleep at night, a lot of times, thinking my dad was not ever going to be able to see me because he was going to die in the ring.”
Even darker stories have been told about Grizzly, including allegations that he may have sexually abused Jake’s sister, Robin. Needless to say, we won’t be writing up any nostalgic pieces about the exploits of Grizzly Smith any time soon.
3. His true dream was to become an architect. If young Jake wasn’t a fan of wrestling, what did he actually want to do with his life? Well, Jake got good grades in school (he was the first in his family to graduate high school) and wanted to become an architect. “Jake Roberts, the architect” actually sounds kind of fitting.
Those are the mournful eyes of a failed architect.
So, why did Jake give up his dreams and get into wrestling? To earn his dad’s love, of course.
“I was at a wrestling show watching [my dad] wrestle and decided in my idiot of a brain, mixed with a little beer, that if I was to ever get my father to love me, I would have to go in there and challenge one of those wrestlers.
Well, it didn’t happen quite the way I wanted. I was pretty much humiliated, went back to the locker room and proceeded to piss myself, puke, and everything else. I walked back to the locker room and my dad said, ‘You’re gutless, I’m ashamed of you, and you’ll never amount to anything.’
That’s when I gave up my dream of being an architect and chased my father’s dream. I’m still chasing it because I’ll never hear him say the words I want to hear.”
The most incontrovertible fact of this whole article: Grizzly Smith was a towering asshole.
4. He was an original member of the Legion of Doom. Don’t worry, I swear that the rest of these facts won’t be quite so heartbreaking.
When the Legion of Doom is mentioned today, most of us think of the Road Warriors, Hawk and Animal, but the Legion of Doom used to be a full-on stable. Debuting in the early ’80s in Georgia Championship Wrestling, the group consisted of Hawk, Animal, King Kong Bundy, Arn Anderson, Iron Sheik, the original Sheik, The Spoiler, Matt Borne and, yes, a young Jake Roberts. The original Legion of Doom didn’t survive long, but it had one hell of a lineup while it lasted.
Even when he was young, Jake Roberts still looked like your dad.