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If you watched TV in the 80s, there was no escaping Jake “The Snake” Roberts, one of WWE’s most recognizable sports entertainment superstars. Between the python “Damien” draped over his shoulders and his near-whisper line delivery in promos, Roberts cut a striking presence and drew you into his storylines. But as is often the case with pro wrestlers, demons from a dark past coupled with injury and drug abuse skinned “The Snake” of his livelihood, health, and pride, until in 2012 he was living just above the poverty line in rural Texas, addicted to alcohol and cocaine.
The Resurrection of Jake The Snake documents Roberts’ struggle to get clean, with the help of his old wrestling comrades Diamond Dallas Page (aka “DDP”, now a yoga-for-fitness guru), Scott Hall (aka Razor Ramon, a recovering addict himself), and Steve Yu, the film’s director, and offers a message of hope to anyone facing long odds.
Why take a chance trying to rehab a drug-addled ex-wrestler that everyone else has given up on? The film makes it clear that while Roberts’ body may have been failing him, his charisma endured, along with the loyalty of his longtime fans. “I grew up a wrestling fan and that’s what made me want to get involved in this movie,” says Chris Bell, director of the acclaimed steroid doc Bigger, Stronger, Faster, and co-producer of Resurrection. “People loved Jake. As he says in the movie, ‘If a man has enough power he can speak softly and everyone will listen.’”
Key to Roberts’ resurrection is DDP Yoga, Page’s modified, non-impact form of power yoga that Jake used to slowly build up his strength, restore flexibility, and raise his metabolism. “If you surround an addict with enough positivity, which includes health and fitness, it changes their mindset,” says Steve Yu, who not only helmed the film but doubled as a custodIan For Roberts’ treatment. “As Jake got healthier, it made him more confident that he could change his life.” Roberts lost 70 pounds over the course of filming and has continued to slim down.
Being a part of the movie didn’t just positively influence Roberts’ life but it impacted Bell’s as well. Recognizing behavior that Jake exhibited as reflecting his own, he checked himself into rehab for prescription drug abuse. “I didn’t know how to stop, just like Jake,” says Bell. “Once you get the tools, you learn that addiction is 100% curable. It’s a behavioral disease.”
Shortly before a recent screening of the film, Bell and Roberts found themselves in an LA bar killing time. Says Bell: “I asked him, ‘How do you feel right now?’ And he said, ‘Great.’” Rather than succumb to temptation on the spot, Roberts said he has no cravings to drink again.
“I think this movie is a miracle for the recovery community,” says Bell. “It shows you the process. You can see the emotional changes Jake goes through as he gets better. It’s going to inspire people and show them they can actually do it.”
And what about people on the other side of addiction? The friends and loved ones who must suffer the sufferer? Yu says he hopes the film will help them better understand addiction and not to judge addicts so harshly. “Don’t give up on these people. Help them find a solution.”
To find a screening of The Resurrection of Jake The Snake near you, go to jakethesnakemovie.com.