Palumbo behind new bikes for Mysterio, Batista
Chuck Palumbo is a powerhouse in the SmackDown ring. But his second passion is quickly making him a powerhouse in the world of custom motorcycle building.
When the 6-foot-7 grappler isn't traveling the world with WWE, riding to the ring on his own custom-built chopper, he's hard at work in his San Diego, Calif., home building bikes for clients -- including fellow WWE Superstars.
Palumbo's most recent creations were commissioned by two former World Champions -- Rey Mysterio and Batista -- who saw Chuck's work in American Iron Magazine.
"That first bike I built in 2006, it made the cover of American Iron," Palumbo explained. "Once I started to get that exposure, guys that knew me, but didn't know what I did in my off time, said, ‘Geez, Chuck, you build bikes? Can you do one for me?'"
After four months of spending his off days working in his home garage, which is now a makeshift fabrication shop for chopper creation, Palumbo showed the almost-finished bikes to Mysterio and Batista when they were in town for a SmackDown event.
Both bikes had to reflect their future owners' character and intensity. "When I build a bike for these two guys, it has to be an extension of their personalities," Palumbo said. "So, when it came down to it, when you look at Rey's bike, you think Rey Mysterio. When you look at The Animal's bike, you think Batista."
Palumbo's creations are stylish, yet simple. "I keep the bikes clean … When you start to add too much to the bike, it looks too busy," he said. "My bikes aren't just show bikes. They look like show bikes, but you can ride them everyday. You can beat on them, burn ‘em up … that's what they're made for, they're durable. A lot of these show bikes you see wouldn't make it a minute down the road, but they look great."
Mysterio's custom bike was scaled specifically for his smaller stature, and included a lower seat, so he could reach the ground flat-footed when the bike is stopped. The candy-apple red bike also features a 96-cubic-inch S&S engine, a 23-inch front wheel, a 6-speed transmission, 24-karat-gold springer front-end, chain and crown-shaped gas cap, lots of twisted steel and chrome accents, and gold-leaf engraving and airbrushed art iconic of the extreme luchador.
"[Rey] loves the bike; we're really happy with it," Palumbo said.
The Animal's bike was -- pardon the pun -- a whole different animal. The bike was designed to be large, menacing and intimidating, just like the former World Champion is to opponents who face him in the ring.
Soon to be tearing up the roads in Tampa, Fla., Batista's bike features a white paint job with a black motor, large 18-inch "apehanger" handlebars, a large springer front end and a "very loud exhaust."
"When Batista goes down the road, he's going to scare people," Palumbo said.
The revved-up Superstar also took Batista's signature tattoos and incorporated them into the bike's artwork in silver leafing. "It's really sweet to look at. It's a lot different than [Mysterio's bike], but you can tell the same artist worked on it," he explained.
The Animal is very impressed with Palumbo's custom creation. "When I actually saw the bike, I was blown away," he recalled. "It came out a million times better than what I expected. It's my dream bike. I'm going to try to get this bike as much publicity as possible, so the world can see how artistic and creative Chuck is."
Next up for Palumbo is a bike for former ECW Champion, Chavo Guerrero. Chicago White Sox first baseman Nick Swisher has also requested a custom-built chopper from the in-demand bike master.
However, Palumbo said his first love will always be the WWE ring. "Wrestling is my No. 1 passion, but [building bikes] is an art that I can express myself with, which is relaxing to me," he said.
"The satisfying thing about both of them … when you finish a match and you know you've entertained the people and told them a story, there's no better feeling in the world. When you finish a bike like you had pictured it in your mind and the customer sees it and is happy with it, that's your payoff … same thing, it feels great."