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The Resurrection Of Jake The Snake focuses on one of professional wrestlingís greatest stars, Jake ďThe SnakeĒ Roberts and his fight for recovery from addiction.  The flamboyant and famously troubled WWF/WWE legend and the filmís director, Steve Yu, spoke with me about hitting bottom and climbing to the top rope again.

In the words of Robertsí late colleague, Randy ďMacho ManĒ SavageÖ

Dig it!

 

The Resurrection Of Jake The Snake

Jake "The Snake" Roberts

 

The Lady Miz Diva:  Do you recall what you thought when they first approached you about coming in to Diamond Dallas Pageís house to recover?  What were you expecting to happen?

Jake ďThe SnakeĒ Roberts:  Well, I was hoping that I could get some help.  I had been through rehabs before and it failed miserably.  You know, just any glimmer of hope.  I got a little hope because Iíd watched the video on the disabled veteran, Arthur Boorman, and Iíd seen where heíd lost weight and thatís a victory, okay?  When I started the program, I was just doing the diet part, which is not really a diet; itís just no gluten and no dairy, and Iíd lost 20 pounds in like three weeks, so that was really exciting for me. At that point my life, there was nothing good happening, nothing at all, so that was really major excitement for me.

I was very concerned though, that they talked about filming it and Iím like, ĎOh no, hereís another Beyond The Mat.í  So I was a little bit concerned with that and I sat down with Dallas and I talked to him about it and the bottom line was, if I didnít like it, it doesnít go out.  I had the right to pull the plug on it at any time.  I went with it because I was so desperate for help.

It was hard being filmed.  It isnít like youíre having a birthday and youíre cutting the cake; it was showing you at your worst.  Itís hard to watch yourself on film.  Normally, were doing these premieres, I donít watch it.  Iíve seen it several times and I get it, but I donít think anybody would like seeing themselves in that condition.  Actually, we might think about instead of spending all this money on rehab, just get a camera and follow somebody around when theyíre drunk and being an idiot and then show it to them, because itís enlightening.  You see yourself as you really are when youíre drinking, not what you think you are.  Youíre not that cool dude; youíre a jerk, youíre drunk, and youíre annoying and youíre hard to deal with.

 

LMD:  In the film, we see that a lot of your motivation to try to change is set off by the report of a gossip tabloid who posted an unflattering video.  Did that experience make you leery of having cameras around you at all times?

JR:  Once we made the decision that it had to be cleared by me, they filmed me during my bad times.  If you watch the film, thereís some bad moments.  But I havenít fallen into years now.  I havenít messed up in over two years.  I havenít done cocaine in 3Ĺ years and Iím really happy about that.  I think God had a hand in it, seriously, because I was doing an eight-ball a day and to go cold turkey from that?  I did, I went cold turkey from coke and it never bothered me and Iíll never understand it.  Itís a miracle.

 

LMD:  Scott Hall mentioned he felt that there was divine intervention in the way everyone came together for your dual recoveries.

JR:  It had to be, because the way it came together was so odd and the timing was everything.  Iíd been there a short time and had gotten a little bit clearer and had some sober moments under my belt.  Then Scott came along and it was up to me for him to come in.  Dallas talked to me and said, ďIím thinking about bringing him in, is that all right with you? If you donít want it to happen, it wonít happen.Ē  So, he put it there and it made me feel good about myself and thatís a hard thing for you when youíre an addict and alcoholic is to ever feel good about yourself.  Surprise!  Weíre not having a good time just cos weíre high.

 

LMD:  What was it about Dallas Pageís approach that was different to the other times you tried to change your life?

JR:  We attacked everything.  He removed me from where I was at.  He gave me stability with my finances and where I was going to be living for as long as I needed to be there.  But to give me stability on my finances was huge.  You know, you get people to take you to a rehab and you rehab for four months, then they let you out the front door, and hereís your ex-wife wanting her alimony, hereís the bill collector, hereís somebody wanting a car payment, and you got all this stuff and it overwhelms you so what you do?  You go right back to using.  And with Dallas, he took care of me financially for two years and now Iím on my feet and I can take care of my own and Iím doing quite well.

 

LMD:  What do you think it is about the wrestling life that seems to result in so many of its participants having such terrible, often fatal addictions?

JR:  I think itís choice.  The reason I did drugs and alcohol is I was trying to escape pain.  Not pain from wrestling, but pain from my life.  I was not happy with my life; I was very ashamed of what Iíve been through.  I was very angry that Iíd become a drunk and a drug addict and I just kept using.  And at some point, once it becomes addiction, itís a whole different animal.  People ask me why I started doing cocaine and I tell them, cos I liked it.  It was a lot of fun in the beginning.  Then one day all of a sudden, it was no longer a choice, it was a necessity.  Once the drinks and drugs become a necessity, your life is over.

 

LMD:  I understand the WWE has offered its former wrestlers financial help overcoming addiction. Have they helped you?

JR:  Yeah, they put me through three rehabs and to this day, they still pay for my therapist.  Theyíre doing a lot.  Three rehabs is not cheap.  I think Scottís been through twelve.  Thatís really expensive.  They are offering that.  Iíve been doing this over three years now and I still talk to a therapist once a week.

 

LMD:  Is there anything that they or any other pro wrestling company could do more of that would prevent addiction?  Youíve mentioned your crazy schedule at the time and needing cocaine to wake up and sleeping pills to get to sleep.

JR:  I donít know.  They have cut back on the schedule quite a bit and theyíve put a wellness program into effect that watches the guys like hawks.  I donít think that the problem is out there anymore.  I really donít.  For the people in the WWE, those guys are watched pretty damn close.  In the times that Iíve been around, Iíve seen no sign of cocaine.

 

LMD:  One of the most inspiring messages of the film to me was the brotherhood not only with yourself, Mr. Page and Mr. Hall, but with other wrestlers, as we see them speak of you in the film, and their worries for you.  Did you have a sense of your peers trying to help you?

JR:  No, absolutely not.  No, I never did.  I hated myself so much, I didnít think anybody else could love me, fans included.  I used to hate the fans because I felt like, ĎWhy do you love me when I donít love myself? How can you love me, leave me alone!í  Thatís how I felt.

 

LMD:  Itís interesting to hear you talk about how your illness affected how you viewed your fans.  One amazing moment in the film is the reveal of the success of the crowdfunding campaign for your shoulder operation.  This was paid for by the fans.  You look genuinely overwhelmed.  What was that moment like?

JR:  That blew me away.  If you watch the film, you can see Iím looking at the number and thinking, ĎThatís not for me. What the hell number is that?í  I just didnít believe it.  It was a significant moment, too, because it was when I started saying, ĎWow, man, maybe there is a reason for me to be alive? Maybe it was worth doing it all that time.í  Yeah, that really nailed me and I wound up raising I think $30,000 and Scott raised $110,000, or something like that.

 

LMD:  Did your seeing that change something within you at that moment?  It seems like it on screen.

JR:  Absolutely.  I felt wanted.  It was the first time Iíd seen outside of my bad spot.  Seeing the world as it really is, where I do have people who care.

 

LMD:  Now that you have seen how having that encouragement from someone like Dallas Page, who is not only your friend, but a peer, has changed you and Scott Hall, has it inspired you to help others in the same way?

JR:  Oh, absolutely.  A lot.  Not just wrestlers. In fact, Iím getting ready to move to Vegas because my daughter has a friend who has two children, who went through real bad period of life and had all these horrible things happen, and sheís moving to Vegas with us to get introduced to a new life.  Sheís clean now, but she was stuck in a hole.  So weíre gonna take her to Vegas, put her in a nice place, help her get a job and help her start off something new and fresh.

I think a lot of Dallasí success was because he took me away from all that.  I didnít have to look at the same old garbage that I left behind.  Iím not revisiting bad areas and memory lane over there.  Those things really haunt you. And the disease loves to show that stuff to you.  Cunning and baffling, thatís what they say about the disease.  It will sneak up on you and you shake your head because even though you donít want to drink, you turn around and do it. You donít wanna do the dope and you fight your butt off not to do it, yet at the end of the day, youíve done it again.  I lived that way for years.  The toughest guy Iíve ever fought was that guy in the mirror.

 

LMD:  How has your recovery been since the filming stopped?

JR:  Itís great, man.  I still do the right things.  I still stay connected with everybody.  I live about ten minutes from Dallas.  My daughter and I live together; she works for me, she books me and thereís accountability there.  You just to the right thing.  One thing for me is not to drive on my own.  Never take that chance.  Why even take the chance?  I take the Antabuse.  Do I need it?  No.  But why not take it, anyway?  Because if you take that the first thing the morning, thereís absolutely no way in hell that youíre going to drink.  No way in hell!  I know that firsthand, it nearly killed me.  You gotta really be careful; like I had an accident one time, I had a rack of lamb at Outback that had a little wine sauce on it, and that wine sauce nearly killed me.  Just two or three bites, I was already starting to shake and sweating, and I was heaving in the restaurant.  It came in real quick.  You know, it can actually kill you.  I still take it.  It makes me feel safe.  It makes me feel like the boogeyman canít get me now.

 

LMD:  What would you like for The Resurrection Of Jake The Snake to give to audiences?

JR:  Hope.  Hope for the one who is still struggling.  And I hope it will inspire other people to reach out and help somebody, because without Dallas Page, I would be dead, no doubt.  So, I hope it will inspire hope, which we all really need right now.  We gotta roll up our sleeves, and realise that it is a disease and reach out to people who were struggling.  We all know somebody who is struggling, or have a family member who has a problem, we all do, and most of them weíve written off, avoid them, we donít talk to, we look the other way.  We need to start reaching out.

 

Director Steve Yu

 

The Lady Miz Diva:  How did you come to meet Diamond Dallas Page?

Steve Yu:  I met Dallas just by chance at LaGuardia Airport probably about 12 years ago.  He was just reading a magazine and I just started a conversation about what he was doing.  I was then just learning how to do films, Dallas was there promoting his workout program.  We just started talking.  I started documenting a lot of what he was doing with other people not too long after that.  Weíve been working on a lot of inspirational projects together.

 

LMD:  We you wrestling fan? Is that how you knew who Dallas Page was?

SY:  I was a wrestling fan.  I didnít know everything about these guys before started the film.  I knew who he was because he used to live in Atlanta, which is where I live.  I didnít know too much about what he was doing at the time, but he proceeded to tell me about everything he was working on.

 

LMD:  When you told Mr. Page you wanted to make a documentary about trying to help Jake Roberts, he said ďYou donít know what youíre getting into.Ē Was he right?

SY:  I think he was right.  I think at some level neither of us knew what we were getting into.  Dallas had a better idea.  If you were to tell us what we ended up having to do to get this film done at the beginning, we probably wouldíve said it sounds like more than we are prepared to do.  We probably wouldnít have gotten into the process.  Fortunately, we did it.

 

LMD:  Was this your first interaction with a full-blown addict?

SY:  It wasnít my first because my other documentary work had something to do with addiction, but it really was a crash course in dealing with the many complexities that families and loved ones of addicts have to deal with all the time, about how you love somebody and care about them, but they continue to deceive everybody all around them.  It becomes a very frustrating process.

 

LMD:  What was the biggest challenge of keeping your camera on Jake Roberts, who is at such a low ebb at the start of the film?

SY:  I think the biggest challenge was being outsiders to the wrestling business, which is kind of a closed club.  As filmmakers, myself and my team we were outsiders to these guys, and for them to allow us to film them at their most vulnerable moments; we were very, very fortunate that they allowed us to do that.

It was a challenge because as addicts, they deceive themselves all the time, so we were trying to kind of get to the bottom of what the truth was and what would actually help them.  We ended up not only being filmmakers and observers, but we ended up kind of getting involved in trying to help them find a cure or solution to their behaviour.

 

LMD:  What was it you saw in Jake that you thought would make for a great documentary?

SY:  I think to make a documentary that people watch, a lot of times there is this kind of formula; you want to have somebody that is very well known or a celebrity, thatís great.  If you have a very compelling subject matter, thatís great.  If you have a lot of conflict, those are all very desirable aspects of a documentary.  Showing who Jake was and how many fans he had, we knew this could turn out to be a very compelling story and hopefully, a very inspirational one.  That was kind of our goal, to hopefully give Jake the spark of hope that he could change his situation, and then by telling his story, that would inspire other people to do the same.

 

LMD:  There are many docs about wrestlers and wrestling. What did you feel would be different about this one?

SY:  I think thereís a lot of stories about wrestling and wrestlers or things in the news and documentaries that kind of show the darker side of the business, or theyíre not necessarily uplifting stories.  You know, it wasnít even so much about wrestling; it was about these friends who happened to be these world-famous wrestlers.  The greatest thing that we get was when someone comes to the film kind of reluctantly - they were brought there with a friend or a husband who was a big wrestling fan - and we win them over.  They say they had no desire to see a film that had wrestlers in it, but then after they watch the film, they tell us that it had very little to do with wrestling.  The goal was not to create a film that was not only for wrestling fans; it was for anybody.  It was just a human story.

 

LMD:  I loved the wrestlers you chose for commentary. How did you make your selection?  Did you get everyone you wanted?

SY:  We didnít get everybody we wanted.  The goal was to capture how great of a wrestler Jake was.  To make a film that non-wrestling fans could understand, we had to capture who Jake was in the short amount of time before we got into the story.  A lot of the wrestlers that we chose were after Jakeís time, but also there were some who wrestled with Jake.  It was important to capture how Ted DiBiase was someone who wrestled Jake a good number of times, so they have a friendship and history that he could talk about, working with Jake.  But then some of these newer guys, like Chris Jericho, who came after Jake, can talk about how they perceive Jake is a star.  How they looked up to him.  How they idolized him when they wanted to become wrestlers.

I think one of the reasons why we were able to get so many of these wrestling stars was because of Dallas.  If you ask any wrestler about Dallas, they only have good things to say about him, because heís just very well loved in the entire wrestling community.  So if Dallas were to say, ĎHey, guys, weíre doing this documentary about Jake,í these guys all just said, ďYeah, no problem. Whatever you want, weíll do.Ē  And that was one of the greatest things was that relationship that Dallas had with not only these wrestlers, but the WWE.

 

LMD:  What was your plan of action as to how long youíd film?  Where youíd start and stop?

SY:  I think that on a very kind of core level, our goal wasnít weíre going to make this movie about helping Jake.  It was more like, we are helping Jake and were going to film it and see if it turns into anything.  Itís not like something where you can determine the outcome, neither can you put something out that would hurt Jake.  Dallas and Jake are really close friends.  So we said, ďOkay, letís give this a shot. Letís see if we can help Jake.Ē  Our goal and our mission was to surround Jake with as much positive influence as possible. Give him everything he needs to be successful and letís see if he can be successful?  That was the goal.

Many times throughout production, we werenít sure if we were going to finish the film, because as you can see in the film, thereís multiple relapses, and it was kind of maddening as someone who cares about an addict to see it happen over and over again.  Many times we werenít sure if this film would ever be made.  So, looking at the outcome that we did have, it is unbelievable to us in many ways that we made it, because we had so many odds against us.

 

LMD:  I was curious how you sorted out the balance once Scott Hall came into the picture?  I wondered if the attention would shift away from Jake?

SY:  We did have to balance that a good bit.  This movie couldíve easily been twice the length that it is.  I felt like we had to get to the core of what these guys needed.  And we needed to figure out what is the message in the end?  What are the things we learned in the end?  Not so much about details of Scottís recovery.  It wouldíve felt redundant in some ways.  

Scottís role in the story is very important for a couple of reasons.  One that I wish we made more clear to the viewer is that people who arenít wrestling fans donít realize what magnitude it was that we had both these guys come in at the same time.  One of the guys in the film says that these are the guys that everybody knows are the train wrecks.  Theyíre too far gone for anybody to save. 

And so, when we had that call, no one expected that we would ever be able to bring Scott in, but when it happened, because Dallas cares so much about him, it was like there was no hesitation: If heís gonna come in now, weíre going to open the doors for him to come, because this was a chance after decades of drinking.  This was the opportunity that could potentially change his life.  So, we thought we have to do it.  At that time it was so important for Jake, because at a certain point in someoneís recovery, they need to have a purpose or reason to continue doing the right thing, and in this case it allowed Jake to use how he had grown to help Scott, and it continued to help them stay sober.

 

LMD:  Having been so close to these guys and spoken with the others, is there a common thread you find when you think of the wrestlers who have struggled with addiction?

SY:  I think itís tough, because these guys, I think theyíre at this stage in their recovery when people can claim their own responsibility for what theyíve done.  So, theyíll in many ways claim responsibility and say, no, it had nothing to do the business, but I think itís kind of undeniable from our perspective.  Like when Dallas and I set out to do this, we knew that you are a product of your environment.  So, at the times when these guys came up in wrestling, it was like the Wild West, and it was probably so much peer pressure to stay on top of the business, and itís such a demanding sport and if itís {drugs, alcohol} too easily accessible, I think itís hard not to fall into that.  I think in any major sport where the demands are high and the environment breeds that kind of behavior, youíre an exception not to get involved with those sort of things.

 

LMD:  Tell us your story.  I understand that you had a perfectly good job at IBM, before you started hanging out with these giant men?  What made you jump ship and devote yourself to filmmaking?

SY:  I was inspired by several documentaries that I watched and I felt like it was this really interesting thing to be able to tell a story and have that story or that message impact someoneís life in a positive way.  And so when I decided to leave IBM, it was because I wanted to inspire people to get fit and get healthy.

Sometimes people struggle with certain things in their life and they donít have a way out, and so in doing this film, the goal was always letís see if we can inspire Jake to believe in himself?  If we can do that, then he may inspire other people to believe in themselves, and then we created this story that actually has a real impact on other people.  Thereís one thing that Dallas says in the film and that is, ďNever underestimate the power you give someone by believing in themĒ and in many ways that is what weíre trying to do is to get people to believe in themselves by watching the story.  That is the core of why I do films; I want to create things that uplift people, and think that there are bigger things and if you can do that, then you can accomplish bigger things.  I gave up ten years of a good salary to make our films and took a long time before we came up with something that seems to be getting a good response.

 

LMD:  What did you take away from the experience of making this film?

SY:  I think itís more of an understanding of what people need to be successful.  You look at these giant men who were superstars, and when you break it all down, the core of what they need to thrive in life is the same, itís universal.  You need to have love.  You need to believe in yourself.  You need to have this consistency.  So, thereís all these factors that regardless of who you are, you can watch this film and you can think itís about addiction, but itís really about overcoming any hard, difficult thing in your life.  And hopefully, it can transcend the wrestling, it can transcend the addiction.  People can watch this film and be inspired to do things for themselves, but also to help other people better their lives.  Hopefully, the storyís entertaining enough for people to take something good away from it.

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

Oct 5th, 2015

 

Click here for interviews with wrestling legends Diamond Dallas Page and Scott Hall from The Resurrection Of Jake The Snake.

 

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