Friday, 14 September 2007

Jake "The Snake" Roberts - Pick Your Poison - DVD Review

When Jake Roberts made a surprise appearance on Raw last year, it was obvious that he had developed a new working relationship with Vince McMahon, and that it would only be a matter of time before a DVD compilation would be released, looking back at his controversial career. Pick Your Poison is the end result here.

And it certainly makes for interesting viewing. As someone who has worked with and spoken to Jake on several occasions during his time in Britain, I was eager to see what the man had to say.

Even though Jake comes across extremely well, as he talks about his troubled childhood, his battles with his personal demons, and his long and storied wrestling career, I couldn’t help but wonder just what was true and what wasn’t. Having read countless press interviews, and the two shoot interviews he conducted with Rob Feinstein and RF Video, Jake came across as just one big walking contradiction. A great deal of what he says here contradicts what he said in the Feinstein interviews.

There are also obvious contradictions. Jake claims he retired between 1992 and 1996, yet on this very collection there’s his SMW title win from 1994. Also, without wanting to go into too much detail, Jake’s claim that he came to Britain to clean up was absolute hogwash. Even basic information about when he came to Britain was wrong. The DVD says he arrived in October 2002. I first met him in December 2001.

As always with WWE productions, Pick Your Poison is slickly produced and well put together. But that’s about it.

There’s tons of extras on this two disc set, including several segments not included in the main interview. But it’s the matches I’m going to concentrate on, which are definitely the strong point of this release.

Starting with disc one. WWF The Big Event, August 1986 - Jake takes on Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat in a Snake Pit match, basically a no-DQ affair. In front of over 70,000 fans, Steamboat gets busted open, and gets the win, reversing a lax cover from Jake into a sunset flip-style roll-up.

WWF Wrestlemania III - Jake takes on the Honky Tonk Man, and brings Alice Cooper along for the ride. This was the revenge match after Honky clobbered Jake with a guitar during a segment on the Snake Pit. Not my favourite Jake bout, but good enough, even though Honky got the victory with a roll-up after interference from Jimmy hart, and with some help from the ropes. Afterwards, Jake and Alice make sure they get some payback by putting Damian on the Mouth of the South.

WWF, Madison Square Garden, October 1988 - Jake faces “Ravishing” Rick Rude in a Rude Awakening v DDT match. This match was part of the feud that began after Rude propositioned Jake’s wife Cheryl. The best match on disc one, Rude and Jake put on a great match with a good build-up, which sees the Snake gain a measure of revenge, DDTing Rude as he tried to go after Cheryl.

On to disc two. Mid-Atlantic, September 1981 - Jake teams with Ricky Steamboat against Jim Nelson and Mike Miller. A quick match which saw Steamboat and Roberts dominating before Jake got the pin on Nelson after a knee lift and back suplex.

Georgia Championship Wrestling, March 1983 - Jake takes on a pre-rugged Ronnie Garvin in a World TV title match. Having only seen Garvin with a crew cut it was strange to see him with longer blonde locks. Jake is accompanied here by his manager. Paul Ellering. A great little bout here with some good back and forth action which ends in a time limit draw.

WWF, Madison Square Garden, March 1986 - Jake takes on “Leaping” Lanny Poffo, Randy Savage’s brother, before he became the Genius. Poffo gives us a poem about zoos before the bout, which saw Jake make his MSG debut. Almost a disaster for Poffo as he slips on the top rope while trying to dive on Jake while he was on the outside. After a hip toss on the floor, Jake gets the win with the DDT.

WWF Superstars, April 1991 - Jake takes on Earthquake. This is the infamous incident which sees Earthquake squashing Damian, and includes the moments where they cut away from the arena to Sean Mooney in the Events Centre, which made for gripping drama.

WWF Superstars, November 1991 - After squashing a jobber, Jake calls Randy Savage to the ring, and unleashes his king cobra on to him, which sinks it’s teeth into the Macho Man’s arm as he’s tied up in the ropes. More great drama here.

WCW Halloween Havoc, October 1992 - Jake takes on Sting in a Coal Miner’s Glove match. Sadly the only thing of note Jake did in WCW. This is the first time I’ve seen this match, although I remember the build-up very well. Despite everything I’ve heard over the years, for me this match didn’t live up to the hype and that may be because of the gimmick. Sting won the bout here, grabbing the glove off the pole and clobbering Jake, who was holding a cobra in his hand, which ended up biting him in the face. At least that’s what it looked like it was doing.

Smokey Mountain Wrestling, May 1994 - Jake takes on Dirty White Boy in an SMW title match. The bout centres on DWB’s eye injury, which Jake focuses his attack on, and uses a camera flash to incapacitate DWB before unleashing a DDT for the pin and the title win.

WWF, King of the Ring 1996 - Jake faces “Stone Cold” Steve Austin in the match that made him a superstar. Having taken a severe beating in the semi-final against Vader, Jake went into the bout selling a rib injury. Austin dominated, despite a brave showing from the Snake, and won with the Stone Cold Stunner. He then made a certain speech afterwards, and the rest, as they say, is history.

WWF Summerslam 1996 - Jake takes on the King, Jerry Lawler, during their feud in which Lawler mocked Jake about his drinking problems. Before the bout begins Lawler tries to bribe Jake with alcohol, but the Snake isn’t buying. Lawler tries all the tricks in the book, until Jake fights back briefly, and is about to unleash the DDT when Lawler grabs the referee. However, when the ref’s back is turned, Lawler grabs one of the whiskey bottles and hits Jake in the throat to get the pin. Afterwards, Lawler pours whiskey on the stunned Snake, until Mark Henry, who was at ringside doing commentary, made the save.

ECW, Hardcore Heaven 1997 - Jake makes a run-in during the Tommy Dreamer/Jerry Lawler bout, and attacks both men before making his exit.

ECW November 2 Remember 1998 - Jake teams with Tommy Dreamer against Justin Credible and Jack Victory. Of course, Credible has his entire entourage with him, including Jason and Nicole Bass. The bout starts off normally, until a mass brawl ensues which involves appearances from New Jack, Kronus, One Man Gang and more. When all the bodies are cleared, Jake eventually gets the pin on Credible after a DDT on a ladder.

And that’s just the matches. Included on this disc are countless interviews from The Brother Love Show, The Barbershop, Jake’s own Snake Pit, as well as in infamous skits involving the Ultimate Warrior and the Undertaker.

In conclusion - this two disc collection will definitely be one for the nostalgia fans. There are quite a few great matches here, and some not so great ones. However, there’s nothing from Jake’s great rivalry with Ted Dibiase, nor the infamous blindfold match with Rick Martel.

As for the interview, take everything he says with a huge pinch of salt, and get a hold of his interviews with Rob Feinstein as well, and then compare the differences. Mind you, you’ll still have trouble trying to decide what the truth is.