Most fans are intimately familiar with the addiction issues that hampered the latter part of the career of Jake "The Snake" Roberts. A large number of them also know about Roberts' unorthodox rehabilitation at the hands of Diamond Dallas Page. So right off the bat, the contents of this documentary will be a surprise to only the most casual of fans.
That doesn't mean it's not worth watching -- not by a long shot.
The documentary begins with a refresher course in how important Jake Roberts is to the world of professional wrestling.... quite similar, actually, to his introductory scene in Beyond The Mat. Hall of Famers such as Stone Cold Steve Austin, Edge, Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase, Jim Ross and CBW spokesman Mean Gene Okerlund (along with Chris Jericho, Goldust and others) discuss Roberts' legendary promo skills, his intimidation abilities and his unique moveset. It's obvious that the wrestling community holds Roberts in incredibly high regard. Nowhere is this more true than with the master of the Diamond Cutter.
Page was mentored by Roberts early in his career and never forgot the guidance he received. So when The Snake balloons to nearly 300 pounds and is seen slowly abusing himself to death, DDP feels duty-bound to bring Roberts to this home in Atlanta and help rehabilitate him.
Using a combination of his patented DDP Yoga, tough love and lot of patience, Page is able to help Roberts shed some considerable weight while improving his flexibility and posture. And when The Snake injures his shoulder, a crowdfunding campaign is launched to help him pay for the surgery -- the response from which Roberts seems genuinely moved by.
In fact, one of the many charms of this documentary is getting to know Jake Roberts as a person. Unlike Beyond The Mat, we get to see a person who is genuinely enjoying the opportunity to reconnect with his family, in particular three of his eight (EIGHT?) children. Now a grandfather, Roberts appears sufficiently motivated to get his life back on track, even when there are hurdles that temporarily interrupt his sobriety.
Along the same lines, we're introduced to Scott Hall more than a quarter-way through the film; someone who is as known for his personal demons as he is helping to reinvigorate the wrestling industry in the 1990s. Hall starts off in far worse shape than Roberts, recovering from surgery, drinking vodka for breakfast and walking with a pronounced limp. Over time, The Bad Guy is seen shedding weight and generally feeling motivated with his new lease on life.
To be sure, both wrestlers were challenged by trying to stay sober and keeping their emotions in check, and whenever Page left his house for any extended period of time, problems resurfaced. But quite honestly, the film wouldn't have been nearly as effective without these roadblocks here and there.
One aspect of The Resurrection of Jake The Snake that surprised me was the amount of WWE-owned footage they were able to use. It wasn't a quick clip here or there; the documentary was able to borrow significant portions of WWE's vast video library. WWE's obvious participation in this product is to be commended, and it definitely made for a better-looking project. In addition to the WWE footage, the producers also showed Roberts and Hall at various independent shows, including The Snake's infamous meltdown at the Heroes of Wrestling pay-per-view.
As we know, this story (unlike so many others in wrestling) has a happy ending: both Roberts and Hall are inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2014, with Page being featured as a presenter. Not only was this honor seen as a huge motivational tool for both men, but it got them back into the good graces of WWE, a bridge both wrestlers had seemingly burned.
The final scene, although it seems a bit contrived, is still quite heartwarming, with all three men sparring in an empty wrestling ring and recalling how far they've come along. It's a nice ending to a fantastic documentary that, in many ways, is less about professional wrestling and more about allowing genuine heart and motivation to overcome the odds.
Highest possible recommendation to watch (and the documentary is now on Netflix to boot).