The Devil Made Him Do It: Jake Roberts in WCW

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Brian Damage

In 1992, the WWF was entering into a transitional period. Vince McMahon was a year away from being indicted on steroid distribution charges and one of his closest allies…Pat Patterson…was fired after he was accused of sexual harassment by another WWF employee.

Now before the WWF/E hired TV and film writers to write storylines for the company…many of the angles, gimmicks and concepts came from the mind of Patterson. Not only did he book for McMahon, he also played a huge role in talent relations and signing new wrestlers to the promotion. So, with Patterson’s release from the company…there was a huge void that needed to be filled. Enter Jake Roberts.

Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts…a wrestler for close to 20 years by this time…wanted to start slowing down. He was preparing for retirement for a few reasons. First, Jake was suffering from several injuries that were debilitating him in the ring. Secondly, all the years spent on the road was damaging his marriage and Jake wanted more time at home to help save his marriage to Cheryl. In what seemed to be a perfect storm of circumstances….Vince promised Pat Patterson’s spot in the company to Jake. He would become head booker, managing talent and creating storylines for the WWF.

Before Patterson was fired, Jake was already writing for the WWF…so the transition seemed to be seamless. Only it wasn’t. After being promised the position on numerous occasions, it never came to fruition. Finally, Jake approached Vince and asked what happened. According to Jake, Vince had a change of heart and decided not to fill the position. Pat Patterson would later be rehired after the sexual harassment charges were dropped.

Feeling betrayed by Vince and the WWF, Jake demanded a release from the company. He made Vince’s life a living hell for a brief period of time and even threatened to no show his scheduled Wrestlemania VIII match to the Undertaker if he wasn’t given his release right after the match.

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It seemed crazy for Jake to burn bridges with the might WWF, but as the old saying goes…”Never trust a snake…” Jake already had a lucrative deal on the table from WCW. His father Grizzly Smith was on the booking committee for WCW and Ted Turner, who was looking to compete with Vince McMahon…was ready to spare no expense by taking away some of Vince’s proven talent. Kip Frey, who was in charge of WCW at the time, allegedly offered Jake a multi-million dollar contract. It was believed to be in the range of $700,000 per year.

That’s when this fairy tale crashed and burned, because in typical WCW fashion at the time…Kip Frey stepped down from his position and ‘Cowboy’ Bill Watts was hired to replace him. The problem with this was the fact that there was legitimate heat between Jake and Watts that spanned back to Jake’s days working in Bill Watts’ Mid South territory. The duo were both outspoken, brash personalities that weren’t afraid to call bullshit when it was bullshit. That didn’t mesh well with either and there were years of personal animosity. So when Bill Watts saw the contract that was offered to Jake, Watts allegedly ripped it into pieces and offered Jake a new contract worth less than half of what the original contract was worth.

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Unfortunately for Jake, he was not in a position to negotiate due to his antics in the WWF. Bill Watts knew this and got Jake to agree to the new low ball contract. Regardless of how Watts felt about Jake Roberts personally, no doubt professionally he was an asset. When Jake was on his game…there was no one better in terms of mic skills and ring psychology. On August 2nd, 1992 in Baltimore, Maryland…Jake Roberts made his WCW debut by attacking WCW’s top star…Sting.

Jake’s WCW debut was effective because he was an established name and also because he was just that damn good. He began a series of promos that only Jake could master as to why he was in WCW and why he was targeting Sting.

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It all led to their one on one encounter at the 1992 Halloween Havoc pay per view. Jake would challenge Sting to a “Spin the Wheel and Make the Deal” match. Essentially, it was a wheel that had numerous gimmick matches on it like a barb wire match, a steel cage match, a 1st blood match etc. The night of their match, the wheel fell on a Coal Miner’s Glove match. The object of such a match was the loaded glove would be placed high on a pole…the person to first reach the top of the pole could legally use the glove. The match was awkward and not coordinated because the nobody…not the wrestlers, the bookers or referee knew where the wheel would land.

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The conclusion of this match saw Sting get the Coal Miner’s Glove and him beating Jake with it. One of the final images we have of Jake in WCW is Jake’s cobra biting Jake on the face and him running back behind the curtain.

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The pay per view was a financial success for the company and was one of its highest grossing shows. It seemed only natural for the continued evolution of Jake’s character in WCW. The truth of the matter was however, things between him and Bill Watts continued to get worse and within 5 months of his WCW tenure…Jake packed his bags and left. Whether he was fired or quit is relative…the real issue was Jake was a wrestler with no home. WCW could do without him and the WWF no longer wanted to do business with Jake…so he went south of the border to Mexico. The rest as we know..is history…

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