The Snake In The Dust: Jake Roberts & The Rhodes Family

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When WWE Hall of Famer Jake “The Snake” Roberts made his debut with All Elite Wrestling (AEW) a few weeks back many applauded the use of the legend. A brilliant mind for the business, the use of the legendary Roberts as a mouthpiece for a “client” (that turned out to be former NJPW star Lance Archer) made perfect sense. After all, Roberts has long been considered one of the greatest talkers on the microphone by fans and historians alike. But one thing fans wondered was why Roberts came into AEW and seemingly targeted arguably AEW’s most popular star, Cody Rhodes.

So far Jake Roberts and his new protege, the “Murderhawk” Lance Archer, have not yet touched Cody Rhodes. But the sinister duo has watched from afar and continued to taunt “The American Nightmare” verbally when given the chance (and the mic). But when you look at the lengthy career of Jake Roberts, perhaps Cody isn’t as random as it looks. For in his 40+ years in the wrestling business, Roberts has certainly had his troubles – and wars – with the Rhodes Family.

By the time Jake Roberts stepped into the ring in 1975 for his pro wrestling debut, Dusty Rhodes was near his first decade in the business, having started in 1967. He was still not quite yet “The American Dream” but he was a 3x NWA Florida Heavyweight Champion out of Championship Wrestling From Florida and a multi-tag team champion with Dick Murdoch in the Texas Outlaws. Dusty was still four years away from his first NWA World’s Heavyweight Championship and was only a year into his first run as a babyface and was just finding his footing as “The American Dream”.

By 1982, Jake Roberts had made a name for himself as a reliable worker in such promotions as Mid South Wrestling, Mid Atlantic Championship Wrestling, and Canada’s Stampede Wrestling, but when he headed to Championship Wrestling From Florida, his career would make a change for the better. It was there that he became a heel for the first true run of his career (“I’d never been a heel in my life!” he said in a tribute to Dusty after his passing in 2015), paired with Kevin Sullivan, and it was there that he encountered Dusty Rhodes – now a 2x NWA World Champion.

During a four-month run in Florida, from September through December of 1982, Dusty Rhodes became the target of Jake Roberts. Their first encounter was on September 30 in a Bunkhouse Brawl, where Roberts teamed with Big John Studd and defeated Rhodes and his protege, Barry Windham. It began a series that saw the two fight on numerous occasions, some tag, some singles, that included Texas Bunkhouse, Lights Out Cage, Texas Bullrope and Taped Fist matches. But as hard as Roberts fought, he went 0-6 against Dusty in six singles encounters. Roberts remained in Florida through 1984, but he never again got the chance to face Dusty Rhodes one-on-one again. His last chance to share the ring with the Dream would be in the 1990 Royal Rumble in the WWF.

Photo: WWE

Fast forward a decade, to 1992, and Roberts had departed the bright lights, big city of New York and the WWF and had returned South to World Championship Wrestling (WCW). Dusty, for all intents and purposes, had retired from active in-ring competition, working more in the WCW offices, so a chance to renew the Florida rivalry was gone. But Roberts’ chance to take more blood from the Rhodes family was still attainable – in the form of Dusty’s first-born son, “The Natural” Dustin Rhodes.

“The Natural” Dustin Rhodes (Photo: WWE)

In August of 1992, Roberts made his WCW in-ring debut, defeating Marcus “Buff” Bagwell on the WCW Great American Bash tour, followed up with another defeat of Bagwell on WCW Saturday Night a few days later. He would slowly move through Sting, Brian Pillman, and Van Hammer, before turning his eyes on Dustin Rhodes in September. Roberts fought the younger Rhodes multiple times at WCW Live Events, with only one battle making it to air – when Jake Roberts defeated Dustin Rhodes on WCW Saturday Night on September 21, 1992. Over the next few weeks, Roberts would continue his battles against Rhodes at Live Events, before once again splitting off. But it wouldn’t be the last time he’d encounter Dustin Rhodes.

In 1996, Jake Roberts returned to the WWF. His return was a year after Dustin Rhodes had also headed to WWF, but he was no longer “The Natural”. He was now the painted enigma known as Goldust and he became one of Roberts’ first targets upon his return. In May of 1996, Roberts defeated Goldust on Monday Night Raw (by DQ mind you) and throughout the rest of the year, “The Snake” and Goldust were frequent opponents on the WWF Live Events circuit. Oddly enough, Roberts’ final in-ring encounter with Dustin Rhodes/Goldust would also be in a WWF Royal Rumble, like Dusty Rhodes, when the two entered the 1997 Royal Rumble in San Antonio, Texas.

Since then, Jake Roberts watched his career spiral further and further out of control, as his demons became more and more present. His battles with substance abuse is well documented and it wasn’t until he found salvation in the arms of Diamond Dallas Page in 2012. After months and months of rehabilitation, both mentally and physically, Jake Roberts regained his very soul and has been working on getting back into the wrestling business in some capacity.

Photo: DDP Yoga

Which brings us to 2020. Now that “The Snake” has regained his mental faculties and his focus, he’s become more calculated and dangerous than ever. And now is the time where he can finally put an end to the Rhodes Family legacy, by turning his attention to the youngest Rhodes, Cody. While he couldn’t take down “The American Dream”, and could only distract Dustin Rhodes, it is a renewed passion for the industry that Roberts hopes to finally crush the Dream’s legacy…by destroying the Nightmare.

Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world.

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