Jake “The Snake” Roberts: “I started drinking when I was 11″
When it comes to the giants of pro wrestling, Jake “The Snake” Roberts (real name Aurelian Smith, Jr.) is right up there. From 1986-1992, Roberts wrestled in stadiums throughout the world with the WWE, winning immense popularity for his intense character, his in-ring psychology and his ever-present pet python.
But all the while, this dark public persona was being outmatched by his true-life troubles outside of the ring. Roberts frequently used drugs and drank heavily throughout his wrestling career, which ultimately led to him being fired from the WWE during a 1997 comeback attempt. A highly unflattering portrayal followed in the 1999 wrestling documentary Beyond the Mat, in which he was reported to have smoked crack in a hotel room after a reunion with his estranged daughter. As he began wrestling on the independent circuit—the equivalent of baseball's minor leagues—his behavior became increasingly erratic, including instances of drunken breakdowns in the ring and exposing himself to the crowd.