Tuesday, August 08, 2017

United States Wrestling Club: Jake "The Snake" Roberts


In 1981, Jim Crockett promotions developed a club for their fans and called it the "United States Wrestling Club." For a membership fee of $5.00 for one year, fans got the bi-monthly club newsletter "Ringside," a discounted subscription offer on "Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Magazine," discounts on tickets to local Mid-Atlantic Wrestling events, and discounts on concessions at those events. Despite being initially well received by fans, Jim Crockett Promotions folded the club after only one year.

The 4th issue of the "Ringside" newsletter for the United States Wrestling Club arrived in November 1981. The feature article was editor Steve Waid's interview with Jake "The Snake" Roberts about his interest in snakes, making furniture, and his tenure in the wrestling business at that point in time.

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If he’s wearing his cowboy hat, chances are the first thing you won’t notice about wrestling star Jake Roberts will be his tall, muscular body or seemingly stone-cut good looks.

Instead, his hat will capture all your attention. It’s a rather nondescript cowboy lid, except when you notice the hatband.

Now that’s a stunner.

It’s the skin of a rattlesnake, complete with head, open mouth and fangs – make that one fang. It’s a chilling sight and it gives the amiable Roberts something of a sinister air.

“I got that hat in Texas and the skin and head of the snake were given to me by a buddy who is a taxidermist,” said Roberts. “I guess it’s the kind of thing you don’t see every day. That other fang broke off just the other day.”

It seems only natural that Roberts would adorn his hat with the skin of a snake, because he has a fondness for the slithering creatures. He has two pet snakes – a huge boa constrictor and a python, both in the 7-foot range.

Don’t let his hatband or his unusual pets fool you, however. Roberts is no “snake in the grass.” He is, instead, a fine athlete who has only recently come into the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling area after successful stints in other parts of the country.

From the town of Sweetwater, Texas, near Dallas, Roberts was influenced by wrestling at a very early age. “My father was a professional wrestler called the ‘Kentuckian’,” he said, “and we shared more of a big brother/little brother relationship than anything else.”

“I would see the huge number of miles he’d pile up traveling and I’d see him get all busted up and I thought a wrestler was the last thing I ever wanted to be.”

As a youngster, Roberts drifted into basketball, baseball and football at Sweetwater High School, and in his own words, “I was the master of none.”

But that didn’t mean he lacked athletic prowess. He got a chance to prove that later in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where he had gone to visit his father.


“I was at a wrestling match with him and this guy didn’t show up for his particular match,” Roberts recalled. “Well, it was suggested that I fill in for him. My father was with me and I knew he’d be watching.”

“It was against a guy named Billy Ash. Time expired before he could pin me or I could manage to do anything with him, but I took the worst of it, let me tell you.”

“I went back to the dressing room and asked my Dad what he thought. He said it was the worst thing he had ever seen and that he was embarrassed. I considered that a challenge. I thought then I could be as good as he ever was. And so, here I am.”

That was “six long years ago” and Roberts is quickly becoming one of the more popular grapplers around. But he’s paid a price for it, much the same as his father did.

“I went to Florida to start my career, but had wrist surgery and was out for 18 months,” Roberts said. “Then I started back again in Florida, went to Tennessee, Kansas City and on to Canada, where I started out in Vancouver, British Columbia. Then I went to Calgary, also in Canada.”

“From there, I figured it was time to head back to Louisiana to show everyone what I had learned.”

Apparently, he had learned a great deal. He became the Louisiana State Champion.

But again, injuries plagued him. He separated his shoulder and then broke his arm twice, severely limiting his activities. Upon recovery, however, he had to do his father proud when he won the North American Championship in Shreveport, LA in January, 1980.

He remained in Louisiana until the middle of 1981, when he came to the Mid-Atlantic area to become involved in the competition that exists there.

“I had to keep right on going in the sport I’d chosen,” Roberts explained. “You have to go out and go places to make yourself better and better. And for me, it means a great deal of personal satisfaction, even though I’ve taken a lot of wear and tear on my body.”

“It proves that no matter what the odds are against you, you can achieve anything in this world if you work at it.”

To relax, Roberts makes furniture, in addition to tending his snakes. It seems the creativity of creating a fine chair or other household object is a welcome respite from the rigors of wrestling.

Outgoing and friendly, Jake Roberts has most of his career ahead of him. Even though he didn’t approve of wrestling after seeing his father’s involvement of several years, he’s met a challenge and become one of the best in his profession.

“I never thought I’d be in the position I am,” he said. “I have gained a lot of satisfaction from it.”

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Special thanks to Peggy Lathan for transcribing the Jake Roberts article.

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