WWE star’s dark past is pure horror
Jake "The Snake" Roberts didn't feel pain when he wrestled.
The WWE icon was hit in the head with chairs and guitars and once broke his arm so badly during a match his bone was sticking out. His opponent threw up at the sight but Roberts wanted to keep wrestling.
"You don't recognise it because adrenaline's flowing so much, you're so jacked on that s***," he told Joe Rogan in an episode of the UFC commentator's podcast this week.
But adrenaline can only last so long and when it died down, the pain would come. Physical, yes, but that was the least of Roberts' worries. Beneath the aura of invincibility the Hall of Famer had built for himself in the ring lay a tortured soul who sought to numb his inner torment with alcohol and drugs - and lots of it.
A look into his tragic past tells you why. Roberts was repeatedly raped by his stepmother and had an abusive father who raped his sister. He became an addict who was so desperate he admitted he'd kill someone for drugs. He tried to take his own life several times but would wake up angry after every failed attempt.
When it was showtime, the public saw the villain they loved to hate who became one of wrestling's biggest stars in the 1980s and 1990s, all the while accompanied by a cobra or python that sometimes inflicted pain on his opponents for him. But it's easy to see why nothing in the ring ever hurt, because nothing there could possibly be as bad as what he'd already suffered.
ROBERTS' HORRIFIC CHILDHOOD
What Roberts feared most was turning out like his father, who the wrestler says molested children.
Aurelian Smith, who was also a wrestler known as Grizzly Smith, was dating a woman when one night as she slept he went into the room of her 12-year-old daughter and raped her. That young girl became Roberts' mother.
Roberts said his dad also raped sister and another of his daughters to a different woman. "I was hating myself because I didn't protect my sister better," Roberts told Rogan.
Roberts' sister was pregnant three times before she was 18 then was kidnapped and reportedly killed by the jealous ex-wife of the 55-year-old man she married when she was still a teenager. As tragic as Roberts' tale is, he fared better than his sibling.
Roberts said wrestlers who knew about his father would "beat the f***ing s*** out of me" in the ring for what he had done. But as a boy Roberts struggled to accept reality, unable to believe his father was an evil man.
"Do you want to believe that of your own father? You don't want to believe that. God, you don't want to believe that, do you?" he said.
Life only got more cruel for Roberts. He was regularly raped and beaten by his stepmother - a much younger woman his father married later in life.
"The last one raped me and beat me and threatened me and told me my dad would kill me," Roberts said.
"But I just wanted my dad to be proud of me, so all these things are factoring in keeping quiet while the wife beats me and has me do her and beats me again afterwards.
"That's called rape and that s*** screws your head up for life. Now what do you do with it? As a kid, I hid that s*** man, I stuffed it away."
Roberts was confused, ashamed and had nowhere to go and no one to confide in. So he turned to alcohol and drugs.
'WHAT A F***ING LOSER, YOU CAN'T EVEN DIE RIGHT'
Roberts started drinking as an 11 or 12-year-old and didn't stop for decades. As he got older he became a drug addict, obsessed with cocaine mostly.
Although he says he was always sober when he jumped into the ring, life as a professional wrestler meant Roberts was able to get his hands on almost anything he wanted. Sleeping tablets, pain killers and steroids - in any amount he craved - were available at the click of his fingers.
But the constant abuse he subjected his body to sent him into a downward spiral. At one stage Roberts said he couldn't go 24 hours without cocaine and would easily have killed someone for a bag.
He didn't even get high from drugs because he'd built up a tolerance and was so depressed but he still couldn't live without them. Roberts hated his past and hated himself, so he turned to drugs to numb the shame.
"Life meant nothing to me. It gets to a point where you put yourself in such a dark hole there is no light," Roberts told Rogan.
He tried often to take his life but with each unsuccessful attempt the shame and self-loathing only became more overpowering. Roberts claimed he once tried to overdose by taking 100 Valium tablets but when the result was him waking up and throwing up all over himself, he felt more worthless than ever.
"I said, 'What a f***ing loser you are, you can't even die right. You're a piece of s***.' What kind of mind says that? It's a mind that's given up," Roberts said to Rogan.
"I hated myself so much that I'm begging God to die. When I would hear another wrestler had died I would get angry and curse him for not taking me instead.
"You have no idea what it's like to wake up and be angry that you woke up, because you wanted it to be over. And there have been so many years that were like that for me."
ROBERTS' ROAD TO REDEMPTION
Now 63, Roberts is healthier and happier than ever - and he puts it all down to former WCW world champion Diamond Dallas Page.
His road to sobriety - chronicled in the 2015 film The Resurrection of Jake the Snake - would have been impossible without Page. The two shared a close bond from their wrestling days but nothing would be as important as the journey they embarked on to save Roberts' life.
Page brought Roberts into his home in 2012, showing him how to live a healthy lifestyle, supporting him and exposing him to DDP Yoga, which Roberts credits with helping change his life. He says it's the best thing a person can do for their mind and their body.
Page was determined to help Roberts get straight, but it was a bumpy road. He was in and out of rehab, falling off the wagon at least a handful of times.
"It was horrible, I wanted to die," Roberts told Rogan about what it was like when he relapsed, angry at himself for letting Page down. "That really sucked."
But years later, with Page's help, Roberts really is a new man. He goes on speaking tours now, talking about his life and past demons and how he overcame them.
When he's up on stage at comedy clubs, convention centres or bars - wherever his work takes him these days - Roberts claims he can always tell when there's someone in the audience who has been abused as a child the way he was. There's a look in their eyes, he says: "You see the fear, You smell it, you taste it."
But for every tortured soul lies the hope of redemption, and Roberts is determined to save people from sinking into the same darkness he did.
"I just want to help somebody else not feel what I felt," he said.