In reality, Roberts admits like so many of his pro wrestling brethren he should have died prematurely.
Roberts said his long battle with addiction over the last 35 years is well documented. He said drugs and alcohol took over his life and nearly ended it and he speaks freely about it with hopes of ensuring others don’t follow his path.
“No one grows up and says they want to be an alcoholic or a drug addict,” said Roberts, 58. “It just happens. The best way to avoid that happening to you is never trying it in the first place.”
Roberts became one of the most well-known and popular pro wrestlers in the 1980s and 1990s during his time with the WWE . His gimmick included carrying a python named Damien to the ring and placing the snake over a fallen opponent after a victory.
While wildly successful in the ring, including participating in numerous Wrestlemanias and traveling all over the world, drug use derailed his career. By 2012, Roberts confessed he was 300 pounds and simple tasks like walking up steps caused him to lose his breath.
A meeting about two years ago with fellow wrestler and one-time pupil, Diamond Dallas Page, changed all of that.
“I was in so much pain before getting together with Dallas,” Roberts said. “I was using coke and drinking just to get through the day. That’s not the case anymore.”
Roberts moved to Atlanta to stay with Page. There, Page stressed healthy eating and living in conjunction with exercise through Page’s DDP Yoga program. The program worked. Roberts lost more than 50 pounds and has gone 18 months without using drugs. Page had similar success helping fellow wrestler Scott Hall overcome similar demons.
At the same time, Roberts said it hasn’t always been easy and he has made some mistakes. This includes mainly sneaking a periodic drink, but Roberts said he remains committed to healthy living.
“Dallas saved my life,” Roberts said. “I owe everything I have right now to him and helping me get back on the right path. It wasn’t rehab Dallas put me through. It was tough love and it sunk in more than any rehab I ever tried.”
Roberts said he now feels better than he has in more than a decade. He even started to take more in-ring bookings and lobbied for a return with the WWE at its January pay-per-view the Royal Rumble.
While the Royal Rumble return did not happen, Roberts was brought back by the WWE for its “Old School” Raw episode, broadcast live in January at the Baltimore Arena. The response from the fans was arguably the loudest of the night as they understood how far Roberts had come in his recovery.
“I was feeling such emotion when my old music hit and came out to the ring that night,” Roberts said. “I had been such a mess for so long and wasn’t sure I would ever be welcomed back to the WWE. I pissed off a lot of people but you never say never in this business.”
Roberts’ road to recovery is expected to hit a high point April 5 in New Orleans when he is inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. The ceremony will take place the night before Wrestlemania XXX, the WWE’s biggest event of the year.
“Had I not gotten clean with Dallas’ help, I wouldn’t be going into the Hall of Fame,” Roberts said. “The WWE doesn’t want to put someone out there and not be able to trust what they will say in front of a worldwide audience. Being clean has given me another chance in life.”
But before the Hall of Fame, Roberts said he is excited to come back to Maryland and work with MCW this weekend beginning at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Joppatowne Flea Market. Despite having a cancerous tumor removed from his knee last month, Roberts is slated to participate in a six-man tag match with MCW mainstays Adam Flash and Ronnie Zuko vs. Mustafa Aziz Daniels, Mitch Miller and Paul White.
Roberts, who is also working on his autobiography, said no matter the size of the crowd, he does his best to put on a good show for the fans.
“Whether you are performing in front of three or 300,000 people, you have a job to do,” Roberts said. “I love independent shows like MCW because you get to be up close and personal with the fans. It’s going to be fun.”