Owens returned during the main event segment of January 15's SmackDown, signing a contract to challenge the Universal Champion in a Last Man Standing Match at the Royal Rumble. The Tribal Chief was expecting to face Adam Pearce, but thanks to a "Card Subject to Change" loophole, the WWE Official was able to exploit his managerial position and deemed himself unfit to compete, choosing a suitable replacement in the process. Enter Owens.
Roman Reigns had been feuding with Kevin Owens, defeating him at both TLC and on the Christmas Day episode of SmackDown, but seemingly removed him from the equation after throwing him off of the ThunderDome stage and through a table on New Year's Day.
On Talking Smack, Paul Heyman told Kevin Owens that he has enraged Roman Reigns and that The Head of the Table is not unlike a volcano, ready to explode. Heyman commended Owens for outsmarting him, saying that it has rarely ever happened over the course of his career, but now he has to deal with the consequences. Heyman says that Owens is going to hell, which will look a lot like Florida, and that Reigns is "going to beat him fugly."
Owens laughed about how he hid in plain sight. He then shared a story about attending his first-ever WWE Live event and wanting to see Razor Ramon and Jeff Jarrett, but because of the "Card Subject to Change" provision, was treated to Goldust versus Henry Godwinn instead. Owens says that he has been a Paul Heyman Guy since 1998 and it's the reason why he always helped The Tribal Chief's Special Council out of jams when he was running RAW and needed someone to create some magic. KO concluded by saying that he really likes Heyman and doesn't want to make him the messenger again, insisting that he will deliver a message to Roman Reigns, face-to-face next week on SmackDown.