AEW Building Cody-Lance Archer Feud with Classic Heel Tactics from Jake Roberts

Jonathan Snowden@JESnowdenCombat Sports Senior WriterMay 14, 2020

Photo by Lee South for AEW

Jake "The Snake" Roberts sauntered to the ring in a lavender button-up and jeans, with a missing phone holster the only thing keeping it from being the classic "modern grandpa" look. Every one of his 64 years are written on a face politely described as craggy. But there's still a twinkle in the wrestling legend's eye, a swagger that was no doubt bolstered by the man standing behind him as he took hold of the microphone and did what he does as well as anyone in wrestling history—spin a tale of good versus evil.

Last week, his protege, the "Murderhawk" Lance Archer, laid waste to Cody Rhodes' close friend QT Marshall. The previous week it had been Cody's brother, Dustin, on the wrong end of Archer's formidable combination of size, intensity and athleticism.

All Elite Wrestling @AEWrestling

Iron @MikeTyson will be at Double or Nothing to present the #TNTChampionship to the winner of the finals between @CodyRhodes & @LanceHoyt. Order Double or Nothing on all major cable & satellite providers / @BRLive / @FITETV (International Fans Only) #AEWDoN https://t.co/J5sIrcvUXQ

But that's just regular old wrestling, part of a tournament leading into Double or Nothing on May 23 to crown the promotion's first TNT champion. And Roberts has never been one to take the same path everyone else in the business travels. When they go right, he takes a sadistic left, heading right into the darkness in a promotion built on light.

That's how Cody's wife, Brandi, ended up in the ring, how the eponymous snake made its return, slithering all over her body, the audience wanting to look away from a moment that felt both intimate and fraught with peril but not quite knowing how.

That feeling, a combination of cringe and undeniable fascination, that thin line between art and exploitation is where Roberts has made his living, a human "Dark Side of the Ring" who exudes a violent energy that speaks to more than muscles and movesets. Roberts has seen the worst in his life and allows us to catch a glimpse of the world through his lens.

It isn't always pretty.

Photo by Lee South for AEW

This week there was no snake, only a bedeviled tongue just as capable of evoking emotion.

"I've been asked to make an apology for my last week's antics," Roberts told the television audience watching AEW Dynamite. "As soon as she kisses my ass, I'll give her an apology. Any time you come inside this area here, this is no man's land. For any of you jerks. This is our area, our playhouse, our book. We are the authors of that book, and we're writing every freaking chapter. Like it or not, that's the way it is."

So far, so good. But "so far, so good" isn't part of Roberts' Rules of Wrestling. And so he took it up a notch or three, testing limits, seeing how far he could go before the world said "too far."

Archer versus Rhodes isn't a modern wrestling feud, two men winking at the audience and talking about how good the match is going to be. It's about pushing a man to the brink, violence bursting from the realm of the possible and to the surface. And Roberts is the master at evoking those kinds of feelings.

"So know this," he continued. "Know this. You know, as far as I'm concerned, a woman is great at home. Cooking, wiping babies' butts, diapering them and, occasionally, occasionally, it's very cold outside and she can keep me warm.

"I have a woman that comes to see me, but she makes sure I've been watching Lance's work because it gets me very excited."

It's classic Roberts, pushing a modern audience beyond the pale, expressing offensive sentiments best left in the past. Is it his opinion? His character's opinion? His character pushing buttons? The thing about wrestling is that you can't really say for sure. The only certainty is that it's provocative. It gets the people going. And no one is better at bringing a feud from lukewarm to boiling than Jake Roberts.

Cody, after what happened to his wife the week before, came out in his comically large pickup truck to seek revenge. Instead, he and Archer fought to a standoff.

They'll have a chance to settle scores on pay-per-view. Roberts has no doubt talked more than a few people into pressing the order button. And that, friends, is the art of professional wrestling.


Jonathan Snowden covers combat sports for Bleacher Report.