Jake “The Snake” Roberts woke up every morning praying it would be his last.
The former WWE superstar made famous for dropping opponents on their heads with his blistering DDT had seen decades of drug and alcohol abuse take a toll on his body to the point where the once-mighty wrestler had given up hope of a better day or way of life.
“I was a person who was beat up, gave up, and didn’t want to live,” Roberts told ESPN Playbook. “I was so disgusted with myself. I had ballooned up to over 300 pounds and was doing drugs and alcohol every single day. First thing I did every day was get my dope and get my alcohol set up for the day. That’s what I was living for, and that’s the only thing I was living on.”
But then one of Roberts’ former wrestling protégés, Diamond Dallas Page, reached out, asking about his deteriorating health, while offering to help introduce The Snake to a new workout Page had developed called DDP Yoga, a program that combines the poses and flexibility of yoga with the muscle building ways of calisthenics.
“I can never thank the man enough,” Roberts said. “He started telling me about this yoga thing, and I was like bulls---. Yeah, right. But the bottom line was, I told him I’d do anything he said just to get him off the phone so I could get what I need. Next thing I know, he sent me a package, and I was like, ‘OK, I’ll try this crap,’ and it snuck up on me. Seven days later I had lost six pounds and that’s all I needed to start believing that there were possibilities in my life again.
“I was ashamed of where I was living and how I looked. To go from the penthouse to the outhouse really sucks, but it’s where I was. Dallas came down to see me and he told me if I lost 25 pounds, he’d let me move into his house and we’d get serious about this. It was humiliating for him to show up and see where I was living and what I had become, but there was just enough pride left that I got angry, and that’s exactly what I needed. I needed to get angry to get me off my ass. I am so grateful for that moment. The first time I tried his workout, I lasted about two minutes before I was winded. I was stuck in a chair before this. I couldn’t open up my hands before, they were like claws, and my toes were the same thing, but now I can straighten all that stuff out. Through DDP Yoga, I got my hands working, I got my feet working, and I got my mind working and my heart pumping. I’m in the best shape of my life, even if I still have a long way to go.
“If it wasn’t for DDP, if I wouldn’t be dead right now, I’d be asking to die.”
I caught up with Roberts and Page over the phone recently from their house in Atlanta to get the latest on the former wrestlers’ road to living a healthier life.
ESPN Playbook: What is it about DDP Yoga that’s different from other workouts?
DDP: I didn’t start wrestling until I was 35, and my career didn’t really take off until I was about 40, back in 1996. In 1997 and 1998, I was on top of the world. I was ranked in Pro Wrestling Illustrated as No. 4, and I was pretty up there, but then I blew my back out and three doctors said my career was over. And I’m the guy who wouldn’t be caught dead doing yoga, but I decided that for rehab, that’s all I could do. After about three weeks, I started to feel a significant difference, so I started to mix some of the positions together with old-school calisthenics into something I call dynamic resistance. In three months, I was back in the ring. They said my career was over, then at 43, I was the world champ, so I decided right there that I was going to keep doing that s---.
We’re more of a workout as opposed to finding yourself. I didn’t develop this workout for yogis, I developed this workout for athletes who are beat up. I want you to be able to work out and go play softball or tennis or go skiing and not feel like they got hit by a truck the next day. We deliver minimal joint impact, and there isn’t another workout out there that has minimal joint impact that will give you dramatic increased flexibility, core strengthening, and a kick-ass cardiovascular workout. The only workout that has minimal joint impact that will give you a great cardiovascular workout is bicycling, and you don’t get any flexibility there. If anything, it inhibits it. You don’t build any muscle mass the way DDP Yoga does.
Roberts: It’s not just a workout, it’s about your whole life changing. It’s everything from the way you eat to the way you sleep to the way you smell to the way you taste. Everything changes. There are some side effects to this thing we’re doing: No. 1, I’m losing weight. I lost 65 pounds. But more importantly, I’ve added this important thing back into my life called hope. I had given up hope. I was just waiting to die. I was just praying for it, man. But now, each day, I wake up and I look myself in the mirror and I’m like, ‘Wow, I actually have something going on.’ One of the greatest things about this is the change I have in how I feel about other people. If I go shopping and I see some guy having trouble walking or I see some woman having a hard time, I use that platform of being Jake The Snake to get in the door and start talking to them. I want to tell them about DDP Yoga because it’s giving life back into people.
ESPN Playbook: First time I saw DDP Yoga mentioned was in a YouTube video that shows a former paratrooper named Arthur, who goes from not being able to walk on his own to running sprints thanks to the workout. What did you think when you first saw Arthur’s transformation?
DDP: Arthur is amazing. God sent him to me and me to him. He did everything I told him to do. I worked out with him once, but he listened to everything I said, and over that period of time, as he continued to do the workouts on his own, it was an amazing journey. The craziest thing about that incredible transformation, is now, six years later, he’s stronger. Look at the people who do those Insanity workouts. Boom, look at my abs in 60 or 90 days. But where are they six or nine months later? DDP Yoga is a lifestyle change. It’s a workout you can do the rest of your life and continue to get stronger. But it goes from Arthur all the way to the other spectrum of the planet now that we’ve got NFL players doing this and MMA fighters doing this and young studs from WWE doing these workouts and getting stronger and getting healthier. To me, I’m happy that this is catching on and working. Now I’m getting to work with one of my heroes and mentors, Jake Roberts, and I’m able to see firsthand his life change in such an awesome way. It’s blowing my mind every day.
ESPN Playbook: You guys also recruited Scott Hall recently to live in the house and get healthy. How has the progress gone with Scott?
DDP: The first thing we had to do was build that foundation of not wanting to drink. He’s been in a really good space. He went through detox in Florida then he came down here, and once you stop being inebriated, you feel things, and I’m not just talking emotionally, you start feeling things in your body that you had been letting go. One of the things that has been so hard on him, and he didn’t know it, but he needs a total hip replacement. His hip makes this clicking noise, it actually goes click, click, click, when he’s moving. First time we heard it, we were like, is that your hip? That’s a real noise out of his body, that’s not a special effect. We set up something on Indiegogo to raise money for Scott’s new hip, and we did the same thing to raise money for Jake to get shoulder surgery. But it’s not just people giving money, as we give away autographs and phone calls. We had like five different people come down and spend the weekend with us for $1,000. I thought it was one night, but then when I found out it was two nights, I was like, ‘What!?’ But we were already sold out. What ended up happening, though, was this one kid came down, and he was awesome. He ended up being our friend, he was one of those types of guys, where he’s actually going to be hanging out and helping us. He’s just a great kid. Anybody who gives money has a heart of gold.
But with Scott, right now, he can’t do too much physical stuff. He can do some limited stretching and he can start eating right. When you get sober and you start eating really good food, your body starts healing itself, and it hurts a lot in the beginning. As you go through, you get better and your body starts healing. I think Scott is going to be in pretty good shape by the time he does his surgery in April.
Roberts: It’s just like me, where the transformation starts in your eyes. There’s life in those eyes again, and it’s something I noticed about myself, but I also see it in him. We were just outside sitting in the sun, and I was telling him, all things are possible. It’s just about getting on the right track, and to me, it means so much to hear that people do care and to feel that we do matter. Sometimes, you forget when you can get in those damn ugly places, but doing the workout we do, and just being in this environment, it’s what people need to understand, if you’re going to change your life, you need to change everything. Dallas went through my clothes and made me get rid of shirts that had negative messages on them. He wanted me to change the whole thing. If you take care of your body, it will take care of you, but you can’t do that by just doing one thing. You got to get healthy by what you’re eating, what you’re drinking, and then you need to do the workout.
ESPN Playbook: Have you guys heard from other wrestlers looking to get clean? How many more rooms do you have in the house?
DDP: Yeah, but I’m not a freakin’ rehab center, man. At some point and time, maybe we can do that, but at this point in time, I’m just trying to take care of two of my buddies. They took care of me throughout my career. Jake was the first person to ever really believe in me. Everybody thought I was smoking crack, no pun intended, but they thought I was a waste. They thought there was no way I could do this at 35 years old. Everyone thought I was a whack job, but Jake and Dusty Rhodes both believed in me, and Jake told me how to get the people to care about you in the ring even though the outcome was predetermined. He taught me that, and he helped me make a lot of money. Over the years, we’ve done a lot of things together, and now I’m here to help him and I want Jake to be a huge part of this company. I’d love to have Jake Roberts and Scott Hall help me to rehab others, because seriously, nobody can talk around those two. Scotty helped make me one of the top guys in wrestling, and now I’m here to help him, and before long, I know he’ll be around to help me do something else. We’re here for each other no matter what happens. That’s just how we roll. But neither one of these guys would be here if they didn’t want to put in the work. Everybody who is around me, we all work. We love what we do, and we don’t consider it work. We’re inspiring some people like Arthur. I gave him that ray of hope, that’s all that I did. He did all the work. I gave him hope, he’s giving millions hope. Scott and Jake saw that, and they figured, if it worked for Arthur, it could do something for them. And now Jake and Scott are both giving hope to millions, and that’s what this is all about.