Where Are They Now? Chuck Palumbo

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September 25, 2012

Chuck Palumbo

World Tag Team Champion, motorcycle builder, gym owner, musician. There isn’t too much that former WWE Superstar Chuck Palumbo hasn’t done. But long before he locked up with Hulk Hogan or built custom bikes for Rey Mysterio, Palumbo was struggling just to get by. (CLASSIC PHOTOS | CURRENT PHOTOS | VIDEO PLAYLIST)

His story begins in West Warwick, R.I., where he was an all-state high school basketball player whose sports career was hampered by a rough upbringing.

“I was living on my own at 17,” Palumbo explained. “I didn’t have the discipline to go to [college].”

Instead, he enlisted in the Navy, serving four years on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinton, which docked in San Diego, the town he now calls home. Palumbo did several tours in the Persian Gulf, which he credits to setting him straight.

“I don’t want to sound like a recruiting commercial, but the Navy got me on the right path as far as getting more organized and more disciplined,” he said.

He went back to school after finishing up his service, eventually earning a basketball scholarship to Central Missouri State University. It was during this time that Palumbo made a decision that would change his life. It all started when he was watching WCW on television.

“They had a guy named Lodi, who was holding up a sign in the audience that said ‘Do you want to wrestle?’ and had a number on it,” he explained.

“I was going to write it down but didn’t. The second time, I saw the sign and called the number.”

Palumbo’s decision to head down to Atlanta and enroll in WCW’s infamous Power Plant was a snap one, which he readily admitted.

“I knew nobody in the business, I knew nothing about the business, but I watched it on TV two times,” he joked. “The decision was that quick.”

Palumbo went down to Atlanta, not knowing what was in store for him at WCW’s training facility. Nothing could have prepared him for what head trainer Buddy Lee Parker and his staff had prepared.

“The whole place was a weeding out process,” Palumbo said. “It was really, really hardcore. You had 30 guys a month trying out and no one ever made it through. 

“The first day was calisthenics to the extreme. Squatting until people are throwing up, people were actually losing control of their bodily functions, no exaggeration.”

The 6-foot-9 athlete was one of the few to make it through the rigorous tryout and into the regular program. He trained for about eight months at the Power Plant before WCW sent him overseas to New Japan Pro Wrestling to further hone his craft.

Upon returning from the Far East, he made his debut on WCW Saturday Night in 1998 as a young upstart wearing leopard-print trunks. He didn’t have much of a character at the point, but the tights were a tribute to a WWE Legend he admired.

“I always thought Jimmy Snuka was cool, those reminded me of him,” he explained.

Palumbo plugged away on Saturday Night, gaining experience in front of live crowds until early 2000, when he would put away the Snuka tribute trunks and put on the tights of another legend: Lex Luger. The rookie made a major impact in WCW when he blindsided “The Total Package” at Slamboree 2000, while wearing ring gear similar to the former World Champion’s. (WATCH PALUMBO'S NITRO DEBUT)

After battling Luger, Palumbo joined forces with several other young upstarts, including Sean O’Haire and Johnny Stamboli, to form the Natural Born Thrillers. The group set out to make a mark on WCW and aimed high, gunning for veterans like “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff. Though they were trying to take out the old timers, Palumbo remembered several experienced warriors going out of their way to help the rookies.

“At that time in WCW, a lot of the veterans didn’t want to work with the young kids coming in,” he said. “Here I am working with Kevin Nash and Scott Steiner, guys who had been around a long time and were at the top of their game. It was a pleasure working with them. They were real cool about it, super helpful.”

Palumbo was heating up in WCW as 2001 began. He and O’Haire defeated Nash and Diamond Dallas Page for the WCW Tag Team Titles in January (WATCH). Their Thriller comrades got jealous of the pair’s success and booted them out of the group. That may have been the spark the two needed, as the hard-hitting Palumbo and high-flying O’Haire tore through the tag team division, growing in popularity by the day.

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