Welcome to part 2 of my five-part predictions series breaking down which superstars will be entering the record books when it comes to the 2018 Royal Rumble matches (part 1 here).
This edition will be focusing on the wrestlers who could go the distance, so to speak, by lasting the longest out of everybody else in the entire match, otherwise known as the “Iron Man” of the match.
Keep in mind that someone can achieve this and it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll actually win the Royal Rumble match itself. In fact, most of the time, the person who accomplishes this actually doesn’t end up coming out on top, as they’ve started in the first five entrance spots, making it considerably harder to outlast the rest of the competition.
Factoring in everything from stamina to how the Iron Man is typically someone of importance, but not necessarily the biggest stars, I’ve got my 3-Count of the men and women from this year who I think could potentially last the longest, even though we don’t know the full field of competitors.
In no particular order, here are those names…
WOMEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH
It should be no surprise that she’s on this list with her undefeated streak going strong and the fact that she was the sole survivor for her team at Survivor Series last November.
There’s a chance WWE really wishes to put all their eggs in one basket with The Empress of Tomorrow, having her start the Royal Rumble and win the entire thing, just to make her seem absolutely unstoppable.
I don’t think that is going to happen, as I expect her to come a little later in the match, but even if she pops up at #5 or so, that could still put her in contention to have a longer time than anybody else, just as she has to be one of the top two candidates to win the entire thing.
This is more of a debate of whether or not she’ll start early in the match or come late enough that there simply isn’t enough physical time available to her. If there is, she’ll set the record.
If WWE wants to go with the angle of a babyface trying to last from the start to the finish, there’s no better option to play up the sympathy card than Bayley.
Her ability to get a massive pop out of the crowd has diminished in 2017 compared to what it used to be, but she’s still quite popular and could inspire the audience to get behind the idea of the underdog going the distance.
Then, it will be that much more heartbreaking when she fails at that goal, being eliminated by some heel like Nia Jax close to the end of the match and milking it for the cameras with a sad look on her face as the commentary team point out how long she stayed in the fight.
To be fair, you can say pretty much the same thing about Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch, but I wanted to limit myself to one of the three Horsewomen who will be in this match instead of picking all three.
I wanted to go with a heel for this final spot, but I can’t see any of the current crop being booked strategically in that kind of fashion—not even Nia Jax, who will be better served as a big threat to appear toward the middle or even later—so yes, it’s another babyface to round out the options, but with good cause.
Naomi is the type of competitor WWE knows they can rely on, but often doesn’t put the bulk of the responsibility on the shoulders of. We saw that with how long it took for her to get her first championship, after years of hard work.
She’s extremely capable in the ring and easily one of the most trustworthy as far as being able to go for a longer period of time and not run into problems, whereas someone like Lana will need to be kept at a much smaller limit.
Perhaps an even bigger factor is Naomi’s entrance, which could potentially place her as the #1 or #2 participant in order to allow for the proper lighting effects to take place. Granted, they can just simply ignore this as they’ve done with other people in the past, but I wouldn’t put it past WWE to put her out there at the start in order to keep the energy up at the start of everything.
Naomi is nowhere near on my radar as far as winning, so she’d eventually be tossed out, but I can definitely see a scenario happening where this accolade is her takeaway.
MEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH
The Viper strikes me as the perfect candidate to be the first “big name” to enter the Royal Rumble this year, seeing as he won last year’s match and is perpetually a main event talent no matter what angle he’s in.
Starting him off toward the front-end of the match could help with the usual problem of the last 8 or so competitors being back-heavy, where it’s rather unrealistic that all the top caliber talent are saved until the end.
This would also give Orton an out as far as not winning again, since he started last year at the #23 spot and this year, he’d be starting much easier. That way, if he comes out at something like #6 and lasts until the final few men are in the ring, he’ll outlast pretty much everybody on time and just fall victim to a bad draw.
If we’re going to look back on this event and see a babyface who was scheduled to lose, but WWE knew would be a fan favorite the crowd could track at the beginning and be disappointed to see taken out of the running by the last third of the contest, I think that distinction will be given to Finn Balor.
Essentially, this would be a workhorse spot. He’d be entrusted to go out there, keep the crowd interested and make them think that he has a chance, all the while setting up the boos for a heel to relish in when they knock him out.
Think of Balor as Bayley from above, upsetting all the fans who will complain afterward that he was “buried” because they were holding out hope that his match against Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble didn’t happen specifically so WWE could have him win the Royal Rumble match to challenge for the Universal Championship at WrestleMania—which isn’t going to happen.