Trust the omnipotent Vince McMahon to spoil CM Punk's planned UFC fun. As Cageside Seats reported ten days ago, the current WWE Champion was looking forward to escorting Chael Sonnen down the aisle for his next fight against Mark Munoz at UFC on FOX 2 in his home town of Chicago, Illinois, the night before WWE's Royal Rumble pay-per-view. Now, all bets are off.
The news was broken last night by FrontRowBrian on Twitter:
Vince McMahon has changed his mind. He will NOT allow @CMPunk to walk out w/ Chael Sonnen. Won't even allow Punk to attend the show as fan.
I'm told V. McMahon's decision to revoke CM Punk's permission to appear w/ C. Sonnen on FOX is "likely" linked to Lesnar UFC/WWE situation.
It was later confirmed by Ariel Helwani of MMAFighting.com after speaking with CM Punk himself:
WWE champion CM Punk will not escort Chael Sonnen to the Octagon prior to Sonnen's fight against Mark Munoz on Jan. 28, after all.
Punk confirmed with MMAFighting.com that WWE chairman Vince McMahon decided against allowing him to walk out to the cage with Sonnen later this month.
Unlike many commentators on this situation, I don't see this as a petty or strange decision by Vince McMahon. In all likelihood, the appearance would have been a damp squib with Dana White telling his announcers and cameramen not to draw attention to the pro wrestling outsider. I don't think it does WWE any good if their current top champion is treated like some tattooed stranger on a network show where close to ten million people may be watching. It's not like UFC were going to plug their Royal Rumble PPV on their broadcast, so this isn't any great loss.
That said, it does make Vince an almighty hypocrite, when he cancelled Punk's innocuous stroll down a UFC rampway just days after his company announced that The Four Horsemen including TNA contracted wrestler Ric Flair would be inducted into his Hall Of Fame later this year. Even though Flair is contracted to a rival organisation and legally cannot appear on WWE programming without Dixie Carter's express approval, Vince wants and obviously expects him to be onstage for the ceremony itself. It would serve him right if Dixie nixed Flair's WWE Hall Of Fame appearance like he did Punk's UFC appearance, but one suspects Vince is right to fear Dana White a lot more than he does Dixie.