By Liam Byrne @tvtimelimit
Randy Savage vs Jake Roberts 12/3/91
Alongside the angles, characters and storylines that had eyes firmly on the young fans of wrestling, the WWF had moments where they were willing to offer up something significantly darker. Whilst the majority of the sharper edges had been smoothed out as the WWF moved into the 90s, there were still times when WWF saw an opportunity to try and push the envelope, much to the (what I can only assume) horror of the youngsters tuning in for the colourful antics of their favourite wrestling fans.
Having retired at Wrestlemania VIII, Randy Savage would make his return to the ring at This Tuesday In Texas, a failed attempt by the WWF to make Tuesday another viable pay per view slot, using confusion over the WWF Heavyweight Title, Hulk Hogan and the Undertaker as a storyline reason for its existence. Savage’s return would come off the back of a visually horrific angle with Jake Roberts, one that showed the extent the WWF could go to get over a storyline.
Having been berated for months by Roberts, Savage’s attempt to get physical ended up with him tied in the ropes and getting bitten by a snake. That the snake was defanged so as not to cause Savage any great discomfort was something at least, but to see someone attacked with a snake in the middle of the ring was a world away from what else the promotion was offering at the time. In a world where the Bushwhackers, IRS and the Mountie still existed, the realistically dark nature of the Roberts attack was incongruous but memorable because of it.
The attack saw Jack Tunney waive the retirement stipulation for the contest at This Tuesday In Texas, a match that began in the aisle as a rabbid Savage jumped the Snake from behind. In an outfit that looked like a rainbow had vomited tassels and feathers, Savage might have looked ridiculous but his fire was anything but. A double axehandle off the top sent Roberts rolling to the outside to seek a break, only for Savage to follow him up the aisle with some more strikes. It took the referee getting in between the two men to allow Roberts to get in his first offense, a strike that looked suspiciously low. Suddenly, the tide had swung.
After reversing a whip into the ringpost and sending Savage into it arm first, the snake-bitten limb became the target of Roberts’ offense. Even just minutes into the match, every move by Savage had an air of desperation as he fought with one arm against a man who was all too quick to break the rules to keep his opponent under control. A poke to the eye stopped some punches from Savage, before a reverse atomic drop allowed Roberts to drop several knees on the injured arm, ripping off the bandage in an attempt to further expose the wounds.
The trademark set-up for the DDT, the short arm clothesline, was avoided by Savage, allowing him to hit an elbow before running straight into a Roberts’ high knee after the referee just avoided getting squashed in the corner. The second attempt at the clothesline connected, yet Roberts didn’t go for the DDT straightaway, choosing to mount the turnbuckles first to gloat. This would be his downfall; when he looked to apply his finisher, Savage drove him back into the corner. Somehow, this was enough to keep Roberts down long enough for Savage to drop the elbow off of the top and get the pinfall.
The anticlimactic finish gave the fans what they wanted – this was all about the aftermath as much as the match itself. Savage’s attempts to bring in a chair and a ringbell were thwarted by officials, whilst Roberts recovered enough to finally land the DDT. A second DDT looked to be enough for Roberts, only for a sadistic look to cross his face and the bag with the cobra to be pulled from under the ring. Prompted by the dangers facing her husband, Elizabeth ran down to ringside to plead with Roberts to leave Savage alone.
Though the snake bite had been shocking, the third DDT to Savage was followed with a slap to Elizabeth, arguably a more heinous action. The WWF rarely did men on women violence outside of the slapstick bumping of Sherri, so to have a wrestler slap Liz around the face went completely against the grain of what was to be expected at this time. Savage may have won the match, but Roberts had conclusively made his point. It wouldn’t be until Saturday Night’s Main Event XXX that Savage ended the feud by defeating Roberts once more, with an Undertaker face turn at the end of the match setting up Roberts’ last feud before his departure after Wrestlemania VIII.