After Adam Pearce pulled a fast one on Roman Reigns and Paul Heyman this week on SmackDown, Kevin Owens will now be Reigns’ challenger in a Last Man Standing Match for the Universal Championship at the Royal Rumble.

But before these two rehash their epic rivalry, Paul Heyman complimented the former Universal Champion for his contributions in outsmarting himself and “The Tribal Chief” on this week’s Talking Smack.

“You outsmarted us. I gotta hand it to ya; thirty-something years in this industry [and] not a lot of people have pulled one over on me. But you, you outmaneuvered us. Well played, Kevin,” Heyman began. “It’s so devious. It was so straightforward. It was in plain sight. Subject to change. [A] suitable replacement is at the sole discretion of WWE management. It’s right in front of us. You were hiding in plain sight, and we didn’t see it coming. It’s brilliant in its simplicity. I admire the hell out of it. I’m envious. I wish I came up with something like that.

“But now comes the consequences. And the consequences are the Last Man Standing Match at the Royal Rumble against Roman Reigns,” he warned. “I am the ‘Special Counsel’ to Roman Reigns. And in that capacity, when he plucked me from the ocean of obscurity, and he rescued me from the island of relevancy, my contribution to his greatness is civility on the surface and the explosiveness that only he can bring when the time is right when he gets into the ring to defend the championship that seats him at the head of the table. I cannot control his rage right now. There is no civility. He’s going to explode.”

Heyman continued with a clairvoyant prediction of where he expects Owen will be at the end of the co-main event match in two weeks.

“Kevin, I like you,” he said with a seedy smile. “[At] another time, another place, another situation, you were the first-round draft pick to be a ‘Paul Heyman Guy.’ You signed the contract. You’re fighting Roman Reigns in a Last Man Standing Match at the Royal Rumble, and that frightens me because Roman Reigns is going to hurt you. He’s going to beat you fugly.

“You’re going to be in an ambulance. On the way to the hospital, after a match that ends because you can no longer stand after the beating that you receive from a Samoan, who’s not many generations removed from savage. You’re going to say to yourself when you wake up in this ambulance, ‘Well, I know I’m not in heaven because God doesn’t love me. Not after the sins that I besmudged upon ‘The Tribal Chief.’ You’re going to think this must be hell. Because you’re going to hell, Kevin. And then you’re going to think, if this is hell, it looks a lot like Florida…I want you on SmackDown. We need your star power. But you stood up to Roman Reigns, and people are going to be talking about it at Roman’s expense for a long time to come. You made it. You’re a hero. But that heroism comes with a price, Kevin.”

Before Owens could fire back at Heyman’s bold claim, he took a moment to explain how the line “card subject to change” always frustrated him as a kid. Now, he finds that line to be poetic justice for his grudge match.

“Man, Paul, card’s subject to change. When I was a kid, I would go to WWE shows, and that ‘card subject to change’ thing really pissed me off,” Owens said with a chuckle. “Do you know how badly I wanted to see Razor Ramon versus Jeff Jarrett? My very first WWE show, but no, card subject to change. It was Goldust versus Henry Godwinn instead. It was a great match, but it wasn’t Razor Ramon versus Jeff Jarrett. But man, more than 20 years later, the card subject to change works out in my favor. There’s some poetic justice there.

“Paul, I heard most of what you said. I listened, and I paid attention. I would never disrespect you by not paying attention to what you said. But when you’re talking about hell, the only hell I’m in is when I have to listen to you. I’m sitting here at this table, Paul, [and] you say you saved me out of a bunch of jams when you were Executive Director of Raw. I don’t remember things the same way; I remember saving you from plenty of jams when you were Executive Director of Raw. When the show wasn’t going exactly how you wanted it to, and it wasn’t compelling enough, you needed someone to go out there and create magic. Who would you run to and beg? How many times did I let you down?”

“Never,” Heyman replied.

Owen’s followed his calculated promo by reciting his fandom for Heyman at one time. But now, he could care less if Heyman was ever on his side.

“I have been a ‘Paul Heyman Guy’ since 1998 when I first discovered ECW. And just because you never worked for me, you know, within those parameters the way you have for other people, you’ve helped me more than you’ll ever know, and I’ll always be grateful for that. But when you’re telling me that you like me, you’re telling me what’s going to happen to me at the Royal Rumble, and you can’t contain Roman’s anger, I know it’s about as sincere as you were every single time I would go to you these past four or five years. It’s like when I told you that I wanted to fight ‘The Beast Incarnate,’ and you would say, ‘Oh, I’ll talk to him about it.’ It never happened. Just like you don’t care what happens to me at the Royal Rumble, and that’s ok.”

“Because at the Royal Rumble, it’s Last Man Standing. You see over there [points to the ring]? I was thrown off that platform. I wasn’t at SmackDown last week, not because I didn’t get back up again, because I did. They wouldn’t let me. I rarely listen to people, but this time I did because an extra night at home is never a bad thing for me. But I’m done with the nights off.”

Owens concludes his statement by correcting Heyman’s comment of how he believes that the former Universal Champion is looking to go into this match as the underdog hero.

“Paul, I don’t want to be a hero,” he announced. “I just want to be the Universal Champion.”

During that segment, Owens also announced he was going to deliver a message ? face-to-face ? to Reigns on next Friday’s SmackDown. As noted, WWE Intercontinental Champion Big E defends against Apollo Crews, and Bayley goes up against Bianca Belair in the Ultimate Athlete Obstacle Course.

You can watch Kevin Owens and Paul Heyman’s full exchange on the WWE Network. If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Talking Smack with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.