November 12, 2001

Where Are They Now?

Nov. 12, 2001

By John Crumpacker
San Francisco Chronicle

Of Ron Reis, it can truly be said that he was big even when he was little.

He eventually grew to be 7-foot-2 and 345 pounds and entertained the low- brow masses as pro wrassler Big Reese (as in the peanut butter cup) and Big Ron Stud on the WCW circuit.

But before that, he was just Ronnie, the extremely big kid from Cupertino who went on to play basketball for coach Dick Davey at Santa Clara University from 1988 to 1992. By the time he was in eighth grade, he dwarfed most NFL linemen.

"One of my all-time favorites," Davey said. "He was as much fun to be around as any player we've had. He'd be the first kid to try to pull a prank on me. He liked to come up behind me and put me in a bear hug because he was so strong. He also had the quickest wit of any kid I've ever been around."

These days, the 31-year-old Reis lives in Atlanta (where the WCW was based) with his wife, Heather, and their 10-month-old son, Jacob. "I call him Jumbo," Reis said. "The doctor said he's in the 98th or 99th percentile. He's going to be large."

Reis works for Gallo Wine as a distributor. His job takes him to restaurants, grocery stores and liquor stores, where he uses his engaging personality to persuade people to order their wine from him . . . or else.

Being 7-2 and 345, Reis is so imposing he could threaten store managers with wrasslin' bravado: "Buy this wine or I'll put you in a death grip that will have your eyeballs popping out of their sockets and make you to rue the day your daddy first laid eyes on your mommy, you pitiful sniveling weasel- faced excuse for a man."

Or something like that.

Though his size made him a natural for pro wrasslin', Reis came to it almost by happenstance. After stints playing pro basketball in Portugal and the Netherlands following his Santa Clara days (with career averages of 10.7 points per game and 7.3 rebounds as a Bronco), his agent, Bill Duffy, introduced him to Big John Stud, who encouraged Reis to step into the ring.

"It was a lot of fun," he said. "It's a lot more serious than people think it is. People have a misconception that it's all choreographed like a night at the opera. There's a lot of middle ground, it all depends on who you're wrestling with."

As for his WCW highlights, Reis said, "I wrestled Goldberg in The Spectrum (in Philadelphia), which was cool because I was a big Dr. J fan as a kid."

Reis' wrasslin' career lasted from 1995 to 2000, when he was released by the WCW and confronted this reality: "I was 31 years old at the time. I figured it was time. I couldn't run around in my underwear anymore."

In his ring persona, Reis was bare-chested and wore long tights and boots ("Twisted steel and flex appeal," he said). Before matches, he'd have to take care of the hair on his back.

"I'd get the weed whacker out and let my wife go at it," he joked. "For some reason chest hair is cool but back hair is gross."

After several years there, the Reis family has settled into Atlanta for the long haul, as much for economics as anything else.

"I love the Bay Area, but it's gotten too big and too expensive," Reis said.

"I couldn't afford to live the lifestyle out there that I have here."

Wherever he is, Ron Reis lives large. It's his only option.