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LaBar: Jake 'The Snake' Roberts reportedly hospitalized

| Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014, 11:06 p.m.

If there were ever a professional wrestler who had nine lives, it was Jake “The Snake” Roberts.

His wrestling fame and name recognition is equal to the stories of his unfortunate battle with demons. Documentaries and stories have told the tales, some hard to believe but proven accurate.

As notable as Roberts' problems are is his willingness to talk about them. He's never denied or put blame on anyone else but himself for the mistakes he's made. He's never been shy about using his experiences to try to help someone avoid making the same mistakes.

In the past year it's been a feel good story. Roberts improved his appearance and lifestyle. He was inducted into WWE's Hall of Fame in April. Things seemed to be on the right path.

Thursday it was reported by TMZ and others that Roberts was in critical condition in a hospital due to double pneumonia.

The wrestling world seems to be gathering on social media, remaining positive and hoping the man who has beat so much in life can beat this battle.

As a wrestling analyst, I always get asked who my favorite wrestler of all time is. I answer with Jake “The Snake” Roberts.

He was in the main event of the first WWE show I ever went to as a fan. I was, and still am, terrified of snakes, but somehow that made him that much more appealing to me as a larger-than-life character. As I learned more about the performance of the business, I came to appreciate a guy who wasn't the high school quarterback but could outperform anyone with his intelligence.

There has never been a better in-ring psychologist than Roberts.

Last fall I finally got the privilege of working on a wrestling show with Roberts. We shared the same locker room, enjoyed catering together and he was even generous enough to watch me perform and give me advice. He lived up to his expectations. His advice was unprecedented but brilliant. His personality and health was great.

I remember the most fascinating thing he told me was when I asked him about what his favorite promo was. He's so known for his verbal abilities, has done hundreds over the years, but it didn't take him long to answer.

He told me it was a promo only a few thousand people in a small town in the Midwest ever saw.

He was doing regional promos for WWF in the late 1980s. This is where guys would record various speeches in character to different television markets to help sell WWF coming to town in the future.

This particular promo was a favorite of his. The camera started recording, and he began to move his lips as if he was speaking but didn't actually make any noise. He kept on for about 10 seconds before someone behind the scenes told him to stop and they weren't getting any audio.

Roberts responded in frustration, explaining he was doing this on purpose. They began recording again. Roberts started over doing the same thing. He did this for about 20 seconds.

Finally, he stopped, smirked and really began to talk to the camera. Fully audible now, he said, “I bet you got up out of your seat and were all concerned your television sound was broken. It's not broken. It's just me playing games. Imagine if I have that much control of you now, how much control I could have over you when I come to (insert town).”

I was blown away. He told me and reenacted this. After he finished, he let out a big laugh as if he told me the greatest joke ever. The beauty and brilliance of Jake “The Snake” Roberts was all gathered in that moment with me. It was one of the proudest and fortunate moments I've ever had in my career.

I am booked on a show down south with him this fall. I was just talking to someone about him and my hopes to spend more time with him. Not as a wrestling columnist but as a fan and friend. I wish and pray Roberts continues to be a fighter and overcomes his latest battle.

Justin LaBar is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7949 or

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