Induction: Jake Roberts vs. Jerry Lawler – Worse taste than Jim Beam *and* this heading, combined!

33 Submitted by on Thu, 23 October 2014, 20:00

WWF, 1996

jakejerry01

For me and many other viewers, Jake The Snake Roberts’s speech at the 2014 WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony was far and away the highlight of the show. He made us laugh, he made us cry, he tried to stifle our inappropriate applause, and along the way, he even shared a rather original metaphor for working a crowd.

Jake Roberts could say more in a single minute of his Hall of Fame speech than Lita could in her entire 28, or Razor Ramon could in his entire, uh, 3.

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Not pictured: Eric Bischoff waiting just off stage looking at his watch

But WWE didn’t always take addiction and recovery so seriously.

At the 2014 Hall of Fame induction, Jake spoke about finally conquering decades of addiction, and in 1996, Jake Roberts returned to the ring after overcoming his demons and getting a new lease on life. You might notice that 1996 occurred before 2014. In fact, it was almost two whole decades before 2014. Yeah, when I said, “decades of addiction,” most of that took place after his first comeback.

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In retrospect, you’re probably thinking, there would have been only one thing worse than having his “gimmick” be that of a new, sober man only for him to relapse into addiction in real life, and that would have been for the WWF to book him into an angle ridiculing him for his struggles.

Which brings me to today’s induction…

As anyone who has watched WWE’s Monday Night War series already knows, by early 1996, the WWF was starting to lose the ratings war due to WCW’s talent raids. In order to combat the influx of washed-up has-beens like Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage into WCW, the WWF had to rely on new, exciting young stars. Stars like Roddy Piper, Ultimate Warrior, and Jake Roberts. jakejerry07 
jakejerry08 This time around, Jake wasn’t just “The Snake.” He was also an outspoken recovering addict who beat his demons by finding God. He even carried an albino python named, “Revelations,” as in the biblical Book of Revelation. (The extra “s” was for “snake”!)
Shockingly, it took Jerry Lawler an entire five months to start mocking Roberts relentlessly for this fact. The King was, after all, involved in a feud with the Ultimate Warrior. Fun fact: of the three past-their-prime stars listed in the previous paragraph, each one had a pay-per-view match with Lawler during the so-called “New Generation” era. jakejerry09 
jakejerry10  The feud started off innocuously enough, with Lawler calling Roberts, “boring” while The Snake did guest commentary. But this wasn’t enough fuel for a months-long feud, so the writers had Jerry start pushing the alcoholism button. Soon, Lawler started messing with Aldo Montoya, who turned out to be Jake Roberts’s good friend — or, as Lawler would end up calling him, his designated driver. Lawler started sneaking more and more cheap shots in on Roberts, first accusing him of drinking champagne at Ahmed Johnson’s victory celebration.
Soon, Roberts was back at the commentary desk, and Lawler cut loose with jokes such as the idea that Jake didn’t “lick” his alcohol problem, he drank it. Lawler then told Roberts that “people like you are supposed to turn the other cheek” before he decided to test that theory by slapping him. jakejerry11 
jakejerry12 To his credit, Roberts did, in fact, turn the other cheek, but only before strangling Lawler, which I don’t remember from Sunday school.
For the next two months, no matter who was actually in the ring, Lawler tried to squeeze in as many jokes about Jake the Snake being a drunk as possible, like how his “tag team partner” was Jim Beam. Actually, he used that same joke more than a few times. jakejerry13 
jakejerry14 The same thing goes for Roberts seeing the “handwriting on the floor”…
…or how Jake married his wife because she had kisses sweeter than wine jakejerry15
jakejerry16:17:18

(Organ Thieves – the new tag team of Val Venis and Emma)

 

…or how Ahmed Johnson needed a kidney transplant, and the donor was Jake Roberts. He used that joke three weeks in a row, and it didn’t even make sense the first time. Why would Jake donate his kidney in the first place? Did he get cut up by organ thieves?
Once, and try to follow me here, Lawler said that he was glad Jake’s match ended so quickly, because otherwise he would have wanted overtime pay. And how much would his overtime pay have been? Not time and a half, but time and a fifth. That’s what’s called “reaching,” ladies and gentlemen.
jakejerry16:17:18

The Organ Thieves do not approve of contrived joke premises.

 

jakejerry16:17:18

The Organ Thieves’ autobiography will be called Phallus in Plunderland.

Then there was Lawler’s joke about Roberts writing an autobiography (which, before Have A Nice Day, was again a far-fetched premise to begin with) called, Who The Hell’s Gonna Buy This?.
(Right now, 18 years later, Jake actually is writing an autobiography, so if he does end up calling it, Who The Hell’s Gonna Buy This?, I suppose I’ll have to take back what I said about Lawler’s joke) jakejerry19
Jack Benny There was one joke that I got a chuckle out of while researching this induction, and that was the one where Jake went north of the border because a billboard told him, “Drink Canada dry.” Later, I found out that that joke dated back to the Hoover administration.
I’m surprised Jerry didn’t just go on the air and literally beat a dead horse (perhaps a Budweiser Clydesdale). jakejerry21
jakejerry22  And what did Jake have to say about all this? Nothing much, especially considering that, due to being briefly sidelined by an injury, he missed an entire month’s worth of tapings (on a Monday and Tuesday) and had to enlist Aldo Montoya as his surrogate in the already one-sided feud with Lawler. Jerry proceeded to pour whiskey down a young and innocent Peter Polaco’s throat.
With Roberts unable to appear at the tapings, the best the WWF could do was put him on the phone in post-production. Once, Lawler wondered how Vince managed to get Roberts on the phone, suggesting that he pretended to be a bartender. I don’t know where Jerry got the idea that bartenders regularly call their patrons at home, but I’d guess he recently watched a Simpsons episode with the sound off and got confused. jakejerry23 
jakejerry24 The feud looked to come to a head at Summerslam ’96, but not before Lawler rehashed another five minutes’ worth of drunk jokes that nobody found funny except Mr. Perfect and, occasionally, Olympic hero Mark Henry.
Somehow, the crowd in the Gund Arena (including Vladimir the Superfan and the bowl-cut kid) was still pumped up for the match… jakejerry25 
jakejerry26 …until Jerry spent most of the four-minute bout stalling and offering Jake alcohol…
…including this wine bottle that weighed more than Hornswoggle…
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How its sweetness compared to Cheryl Roberts’s kisses remains a mystery.

jakejerry28 …and won by hitting Jake in the throat with a bottle of whiskey…
…which he then poured on him. jakejerry29
jakejerry30  Even after Lawler defeated Roberts at Summerslam, the horrendous jokes kept on coming. For instance, do you know what the Olympics and Jake The Snake have in common? They both got bombed! Ah, the innocent days of 1996, when one could tell an hilarious terrorism joke.
Continuing with the Jake The Snake-Olympics connection, Lawler said Roberts was disappointed at the Summer Games when he found out that the “parallel bars” weren’t like he envisioned them. That joke was pretty good, but the fact that it came two months after the closing ceremonies in Atlanta leads me to believe Lawler was kicking himself for coming up with that one too late. At least he didn’t try to drag the feud out another four years until the Sydney Games in 2000 just to have an excuse to use it, although looking back at all these Lawler one-liners, it certainly feels like this angle ran for a whole olympiad. jakejerry31 
jakejerry32 Lawler also connected Jake The Snake to Tupac Shakur, saying the rapper had even more “shots” in him than Jake Roberts. Really, the fact that Tupac would die a few days later from those same gunshot wounds couldn’t make this angle any more tasteless than it already was.
Finally, in a match that was such an afterthought that it wasn’t aired until three weeks after it was filmed, Jake got his revenge. All week long, Jerry had been spreading rumors about Roberts falling off the wagon, which The Snake’s stumbling entrance seemed to confirm… jakejerry33 
jakejerry34  …which Jerry, in turn, found hilarious. Laughing about Roberts’s former problems was obnoxious and tasteless, but delighting over his return to addiction was a kind of evil known only to the animated marijuana smoke voiced by Ed Asner George C. Scott in after-school specials.
Not that the supposedly sympathetic Jim Ross helped matters with his jokes about Jake being “dropkicked off the wagon.” jakejerry35
jakejerry36 So Jake showed up in a stupor, complete with an actual liquor bottle in a brown bag that he decided to bring with him in front of thousands of people (but don’t worry! He kept it hidden behind his back so no one could see it!).
However, it turned out to be a ruse, and Jake dropped Lawler with a DDT for a victory in mere seconds.
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Feud’s length: four agonizing months. Total combined amount of wrestling: <5 minutes

jakejerry38 Then, in a bit of poetic justice, the man who toured the country warning people of the dangers of alcohol got to pour alcohol down the throat of a man who had never had a drink in his life. Poetic justice, hypocrisy — they’re pretty much the same thing, right?
This angle gets several order of magnitude more distasteful in retrospect, as Roberts would soon fall back into addiction in real life — a risk that Vince McMahon really should have considered before teasing tragedy on-screen (see also: Vince McMahon’s “death” and tribute vs. Chris Benoit incident). jakejerry39 
jakejerry40  And how long did it take WWE to learn this valuable lesson in sensitivity? Long enough for an inebriated and suicidal Road Warrior Hawk to fall off the Titantron, and long enough for Jeff Hardy to be found unconscious in a hotel stairwell under mysterious circumstances.
Given that Roberts would spend most of the next two decades re-enacting the “drunken” entrance from his last match against Lawler (most notably at Heroes of Wrestling), it’s safe to say that Jake’s mock-relapse fakeout was wrestling’s worst “happy ending” of all time. jakejerry41
 

Fortunately, eighteen years later, the saga of Jake Roberts appears to have a happy ending — which, you’ll recall, has always been Jake The Snake’s specialty.

Written by

A wrestling fan ever since the days of Wrestlemania IX, Art graduated from college in the same building where Art Donovan called King of the Ring 1994. He also runs the "How Much Does This Guy Weigh?" blog, where he reviews New Generation-Era Monday Night Raws. Follow him on Twitter @Art0Donnell. Email at: art@wrestlecrap.com
33 Responses to "Induction: Jake Roberts vs. Jerry Lawler – Worse taste than Jim Beam *and* this heading, combined!"
  1. Anonymous says:

    Jake is one of my favorite wrestlers of all time, but this was definitely the low point of his WWF career.

  2. kmtown says:

    Reminded me of a story I read years ago in one of the old Apter mags. It was about how the King was becoming so frustrated over not having won a world’s championship that he started drinking! I guess all those CWA belts didn’t count.

  3. "The Big Cheese" Paul Kraft says:

    This is one of those angles that’s so stupid and offensive that I just shake my head and wonder what everyone involved (the writers and wrestlers) were thinking when they agreed to do this. Glad Jake eventually got better thanks to DDP. Great induction as always, Art.

    • Nah says:

      The problem is that WWE still does stuff like this with disturbing regularity. Being irreverent is not always the same thing as being edgy. There are limits, and when your storylines are as such that only a psychopath can enjoy them, there’s a problem there.

  4. Preparation Triple H says:

    You’d think Lawler would have come up with more tag team partners for Jake – Jack Daniels, Johnnie Walker, Captain Morgan, etc.

  5. John Matrix says:

    I’ll admit it: I laughed when I heard the “Drink Canada Dry” joke.

  6. AdamX says:

    Inappropriate Joke Lawler is still better than 2014 Lawler.

    That said I’m glad Jake got better, one of my all time favorites.

  7. Ian Feuerhake says:

    thank you for inducting this. with alcoholism running pretty deep in my family, and having some issues in the past with it myself as well, crap like this turned me off of wrestling for quite a while, including missing a lot of the Monday Night War when it was good

  8. Andre R. says:

    I remember the way Lawler was back in the early-mid 90s. How he would bully anyone he didn’t like and badmouth Bret Hart’s parents who had never done anything to him only because he was feuding with their son. I even remember a line from a letter to an Apter mag where the writer disagreed with another reader’s letter about how great Lawler was and said that he was mediocre at best in the ring and then added “Insulting somebody’s mother is no way to challenge them to a match.” I agreed with that one. And it would be up to the top babyfaces like Hart, Taker and Diesel to put Lawler in his place. Even Duke Drose got his revenge against the King at one point. And in ’95 William Shatner guested on RAW and even he got a few shots in at Lawler when he got mouthy with the “lengendary Captain Kirk”. And then in the last decade, they mellowed Lawler out considerably and made him a lot nicer, and then it was up to Michael Cole to be the bully who would badmouth and insult him. I remember when Lawler’s mother died and Cole was still being a jerk to him, I thought back to the times when Lawler used to do the same thing to others. 15 or so years later, now it was happening to him. I thought that was really interesting. Anyway, good induction.

  9. Crazy R says:

    George C. Scott was the voice of the marijuana smoke, not Ed Asner.

  10. Autrach Sejanoz says:

    “The Organ Thieves” – now THAT’S funny! Great work, Art!

  11. Scrooge McSuck says:

    I can’t believe this hasn’t been inducted before. On the subject of the 2014 Hall of Fame ceremony, Jake’s speech might’ve been the most touching of any inductee yet. In the immortal words of Jimmy V, he made me laugh, made me think, and made me cry.

  12. Down With OPC says:

    Anyone remember when Ricky Steamboat brought out a kimodo dragon to face Damien?

  13. Rose Harmon says:

    Agreed. However inappropriate 1996 Lawler was, he was still a chicken-s*** heel, not a soulless, hokey corporate lackey.

    • John C says:

      Jerry agrees with 99.9% of what you said. It’s strange that any addiction, outside of ones involving certain muscle enhancements is a joke to Vince. How dare someone show a weakness compared to the pillar of virtue that is Vincent Kennedy McMahon JR.

    • Jimbolian says:

      Kind of funny you mentioned that, I’m sure Lawler got some of his ideas from Andy Kaufman when he feuded with him in Memphis back in the early 80’s.

      And yes, even to this day, I consider the Lawler/Kaufman rivalry my favorite feud of all time.

  14. The Scanian Maniac says:

    Who’s Emma, and what’s her connection to Val Venis?

  15. The 5th Horseman says:

    Are you ever going to introduce (or have you already introduced) the WCW equivalent of this angle? Two years after this here angle took place WCW did a very similar thing with Scott Hall. That was during that horrible nWo Wolfpac/Hollywood split storyline. During a feud with his former Tag Team partner Kevin Nash they made Scott Hall act as though he was constantly drunk and even vomited on Eric Bishoff once. And given that at the time Scott Halls marriage had been destroyed in part due to his addiction I think this is a pretty despicable thing to do. The whole angle culminated in a match between him and Nash during Halloween Havoc ’98 for which Hall turned up “drunk”, Nash Jacknifed him 2 times and then lost due to count out as he left his former friend lying in the ring.

    If my memory serves me right they dropped the angel after that and never mentioned it again. A month later during World War 3 ’98 Hall was unceremoniously kicked out of the nWo Hollywood when Bishoff ordered all the B-Team goons to attack him before his scheduled re-match against Kevin Nash. Nash came to his rescue and the Outsiders were reunited once again.

    Around the same time they had The Giant smoke cigarettes for some reason and that never went anywhere either.

  16. Jimbolian says:

    Yeah, George C. Scott did the voice of Mr. Smoke, Smoke Man…Weedy? Never really got to know his name.

  17. MWeyer says:

    I remember on Jake’s 2005 DVD, they talked about this, Jake thinking Lawler was going to pour water instead of real liquor and hating that while Lawler seems to not get it being such a big deal, just being the asshole heel. Interesting outlooks and if you haven’t watched that DVD, do so, great doc on Jake and up front over his problems of the past.

  18. ChuckU says:

    Good read but that wasn’t Ed Asner in Cartoon All-Stars To The Rescue it George C Scott

    • Art0Donnell says:

      Oh, you mean the guy who got hit in the groin by the football in Hans Moleman’s movie? I didn’t know he had done anything else.

  19. Stephen says:

    Not going to lie; I laughed at every single drinking joke in this induction (except for “Drink Canada Dry”, which I’d heard before). A funny drinking joke is a funny drinking joke, regardless of whether Jake is the butt of it or not.

    • John C says:

      That’s it you’re getting a round of booze, whoops boos for that comment. Now Lawler’s got me doing it too. He’s probably drunk with power. Oh no The King has possesed me, what’s Jakes’ favorite move? The armbar. Get out of me Jerry I’m not a 14 year old girl.

    • Nah says:

      Jokes about alcoholism are about as funny as jokes about abuse.

  20. Professor Q says:

    Great induction in a “I can’t believe anyone thought this was a good idea” way. Now where’s the Scott Hall drunk angle from WCW, involving him puking and crashing cars? That was grade-A WrestleCrap.

  21. The Man says:

    I know some of the people writing articles here have bias attitudes towards the WWF/E but was it really necessary to just randomly call Hogan and Savage washed up has-beens? Say what you want about them but at the time this was happening they were still major draws.

    • The Other Man says:

      *Sigh* It’s just like the “Cena sucks” joke intro from the Cena/Laurinitis induction all over again. Art couldn’t have made his sarcasm/acknowledgement of contradictions and hypocrisy any more obvious yet you still didn’t recognise them.

      Art starts off the paragraph with “As anyone who’s been watching WWE’s Monday Night War series knows,” so immediately he’s saying the information is unreliable and biased. He then compares the washed-up has-beens (again, while under the pretext that this is information from WWE’s documentary series) Hogan and Savage to WWF’s ‘New Generation’ stars, Warrior, Piper, Roberts and Lawler. He removed ANY ambiguity about what his intention was by repeating the fact that these four fought each other on pay-per-view during 1996. The idea being that WWF has distorted the war to make it look like they won it by just introducing fresh faces to WCW’s old hat when WWF was no better. I don’t agree with this since WWF was mostly using these older guys in the mid-card while main events were still centred around Michaels, Bret, Sid, Taker and later Austin, but then again the nWo was genuinely revolutionary at the time it started. It’s a shame WCW ran it into the ground but for 18 months fans couldn’t get enough of it and it was still popular for another 12 months after that albeit at a lower level.

      Seriously, Art could not have signposted this any more clearly without putting a huge bold headline at the top of the page literally spelling it out. It boggles my mind that you can accuse him of bias when it’s clearly you who’s so biased that you didn’t notice really obvious satire and instead just assumed that Wrestlecrap writers are staunchly pro-WWE – something which has never been true about any single one of the site’s regular contributors. In fact, I would go one further and say several writers on here (most notably Triple Kelly) have been massively biased AGAINST the WWE in many of her inductions, blaming the company for everything and refusing to look at the whole picture.

      Being critical of something does not make you favourable towards something else. That’s called a false choice. Wiki it while you’re also looking up the word ‘sarcasm’ before posting any more comments.

  22. Doc 902714 says:

    Two more not mentioned in this article

    When Jake called into RAW and talked with Jerry Lawler & Vince McMahon prior to facing King at SummerSlam:

    “I can’t believe you’re even talking. Your breath is bleaching my hair”

    Before Lawler wrestled Aldo Montoya on RAW he grabbed the mic

    “First thing I’m gonna do to you Jake is to knock you down horizontally so that way everyone could recognize you”

    BONUS: When Jake was on the shelf with an injury sustained by Vader at a house show and missed several RAW tapings; (even Vince made comments about Jake’s eyes for some reason, possible cue to start up the King again)

    “Doctors report they found traces of blood in Jake’s alcohol stream.”

  23. The Other Man says:

    “The ‘s’ is for snake!” Love it.

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