Regardless if victory and headlining WrestleMania awaits them, CM Punk, Damien Sandow and Alberto Del Rio have plenty to strive for as the Superstars with the best chance of being the "Iron Man" of WWE's 2014 Royal Rumble.
Recent momentum and Rumble history points to each of these wrestlers joining the list of Superstars able to survive in the 30-man match longer than anyone else.
Many have pegged Batista as the favorite to win the bout. Count on Punk, Sandow or Del Rio taking home the Rumble's consolation prize—being the match's Iron Man.
It's a feat that Bob Backlund achieved when he lasted more than an hour at the 1993 Rumble. Rick Martel nearly hit the 60-minute mark two years before that.
The list of the rest of the event's marathon men reveals an intriguing pattern.
|Top 15 Royal Rumble Iron Men|
|Wrestler||Event Year||Time Spent in Match|
|1. Rey Mysterio||2006||1:02:12|
|2. Chris Benoit||2004||1:01:30|
|3. Bob Backlund||1993||1:01:10|
|4. Ric Flair||1992||59:26|
|5. Steve Austin, Vince McMahon||1999||56:38|
|7. Rick Martel||1991||52:17|
|8. The Rock||1998||51:32|
|9. Triple H||2009||49:55|
|10. Dolph Ziggler||2013||49:47|
|11. Triple H||1996||48:01|
|12. Chris Benoit||2005||47:26|
|13. Steve Austin||1997||45:07|
|15. Ted DiBiase||1990||44:47|
Aside from a few exceptions, the men who have lasted the longest in the Rumble match haven't been known for their size. Rey Mysterio, Chris Benoit, Edge and Ric Flair relied more on their skill, cunning and heart.
This is not normally a spot reserved for the giants and the powerhouses of the company. Considering that factor and the direction Punk, Sandow and Del Rio are going as of late, it looks as if one of these men will be the next to join this list.
Punk has been booked as a survivor and a warrior. He somehow defeated all three members of The Shield by himself at TLC 2013. When he had issues with The Shield as well as The New Age Outlaws, he called them all out, willing to go into a one-on-five war.
Expect that trait to be emphasized when Punk enters the Rumble as the first entrant.
As much as the No. 1 spot was supposed to be punishment from Kane, it's been one that has produced a number of the match's marathon men. Steve Austin, Benoit, Dolph Ziggler and The Miz have all staved off elimination for an impressive amount of time as the first man in.
The story for Punk is going to be his uphill, unfair battle against The Authority.
He'll face both The Shield and The New Age Outlaws at some point in the Rumble. Perhaps Kane gets involved as well. Either way, the way to maximize drama here is to have Punk slip away from defeat again and again.
Should he make it to the last four men standing, his eventual loss would be that much more painful. If Triple H or one of his cronies is responsible for his elimination, Punk will charge toward the COO en route a WrestleMania clash.
It's time for something big for Sandow.
After failing to cash in his Money in the Bank contract against John Cena, he faltered and grew frustrated. He's since had a rematch with Cena and pushed the former champ to his proverbial limit.
It now feels as if Sandow is on the on the cusp of breaking into a higher position on the card.
There's little reason to believe the company thinks him ready to headline WrestleMania, but an Iron Man achievement is a great way to keep his momentum going forward instead. In 2013, Ziggler was an upper midcarder seemingly close to upward movement. He went on to last longer than anyone else in the Rumble.
Sandow is a strong candidate to mirror him.
He's billed as crafty, unopposed to breaking rules and, as seen in his match against Cena, a man tough to put away. Should Sandow get an early spot in the Rumble, look for him to battle for 40 minutes or more before he's finally eliminated.
Alberto Del Rio
Del Rio is primed to add another achievement to his resume.
Roman Reigns is likely to do some major damage in the match. He and Big E Langston are the two Superstars most likely to end the night with the most eliminations. As the match's powerhouses, Iron Man is far less of a possibility than it is for "Mexico's Greatest Export."
Wrestlers like Martel, Flair, DiBiase and Edge show a pattern that favors Del Rio. Quickness and savvy apparently help lead one to lasting a long time in the Rumble.
WWE can play up Del Rio's previous Rumble win as evidence that he simply knows how to survive in the match. That and his lack of morals give him an edge. He'll likely form temporary alliances only to turn on his comrades.
With a Rumble field that has no Cena, Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar, Big Show or Daniel Bryan, Del Rio is one of the biggest stars participating. He's one of the Superstars who can be sold as a legitimate threat to win, and that means filler entrants like Xavier Woods and Fandango will go flying over the ring while Del Rio hangs around.
WWE teasing that he'll win only to have Batista toss him out is a highly plausible scenario.
As much as fans groan about how many championships and accolades WWE hands Del Rio, it's clear that the company has great confidence in him. He won the only Rumble he participated in and stands to make his second go-round a memorable one.
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