Last week, WWE Hall of Famer and pro wrestling icon Jake “The Snake” Roberts made his debut with All Elite Wrestling (AEW). Interrupting Cody Rhodes, Roberts came to warn the younger Rhodes that he was there to “slay” Cody and that he had a “client” and that “the Darkside would be coming to AEW.”
It marked over 20 years since Jake “The Snake” Roberts last appeared in a storyline position on wrestling television (not including guest one-offs with the likes of ECW, TNA/IMPACT, and WWE). And that was his part in the 1996 King of the Ring that lead to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin making the infamous 3:16 Speech. Roberts was released by the WWF in February of 1997, at the dawn of the Attitude Era.
Since then, Roberts has gone through a well-documented near two decades of on-and-mostly-off-again issues with substance abuse – many tragically caught on camera and released through Social Media. In 2012, he moved in with Diamond Dallas Page and finally got himself clean and sober, which he’s maintained to this day. With a healthy lifestyle, a positive attitude, and a renewed passion for pro wrestling, it was inevitable that one of the greatest cerebral wrestlers and talkers would return to the business.
This Wednesday night, it was revealed that his client was none other than former NJPW star Lance Archer, who recently signed with AEW following the end of his New Japan deal. A 20-year veteran, he got his start in 2000 with Arlington, Texas’ Professional Championship Wrestling (PCW), where he wrestled until 2008 as Shadow. During his tenure there, he was scouted and signed by Total Nonstop Action (TNA, now IMPACT Wrestling), where he debuted in 2004 as Dallas, the Diesel-like bodyguard of Kid Kash, winning the NWA World Tag Team titles on two occasions. A year later, he was rebranded as Lance Hoyt, and then to Lance Rock, paired with Jimmy Rave in The Rock N’ Rave Infection.
He departed TNA in 2009 and joined WWE’s developmental with Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW). In 2009, he debuted with WWE’s rebooted ECW show on the SyFy Network under the name Vance Archer. He briefly appeared on NXT in 2010, before being called up to SmackDown, but by October WWE had run out of ideas and he was released.
In 2011, he joined New Japan Pro Wrestling, where he joined Minoru Suzuki‘s Suzuki-gun faction, and a year later was paired together with another former WWE Superstar, Davey Boy Smith Jr. (aka David Hart Smith) as the Killer Elite Squad. Together, they would become one of the most dominant tag teams in Japan, capturing the IWGP Tag Team titles three times as well as picking up two runs as the GHC Tag Team Champions during a one-year invasion of Pro Wrestling NOAH. In North America, they were also 2x NWA World Tag Team Champions.
When his tag partner Smith left NJPW last year, many wondered what would happen with someone who had only really been a tag team star on a big stage – Lance Archer never seemed to find his traction in singles in the US with WWE or TNA. But in his final year with New Japan, he flourished as a singles star, impressing in last year’s G1 Climax Series and capturing the IWGP United States Championship. His stock was never higher as a singles performer in his nearly 20-year career.
For both men, their AEW debuts mark a huge leap of faith. Jake Roberts hasn’t been reliable enough to be on television for two decades, and Lance Archer had failed to prove he could be a star in North America. But now these men are at vastly different stages of their lives and careers. Roberts has never been this sober in decades and Archer has never had the momentum he’s had like the past year. It may just be the perfect pairing as they find their rebirth in North American pro wrestling.
— All Elite Wrestling (@AEWrestling) March 12, 2020
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