Just one night after CM Punk was submitted in about two minutes by Mickey Gall at UFC 203, WWE apparently did something to reference its former talent’s initial failure in mixed martial arts. And that reference came at the Backlash pay-per-view, when Intercontinental Champion The Miz and challenger Dolph Ziggler seemed to recreate how Gall quickly had Punk in a rear-naked choke and dominated him in their welterweight match on Saturday night.

The backstory: CM Punk’s fallout with WWE

It’s no secret that CM Punk is not on good terms with his former employer. When he guested on then-best friend Colt Cabana’s The Art of Wrestling podcast in late November 2014, Punk spilled the beans on why he had walked away from professional wrestling in January of that year, talking about his issues with storylines, backstage politics, and the allegedly unethical practices of WWE physician Chris Amann.

This eventually led to WWE filing a lawsuit against Punk and Cabana, a.k.a. Phil Brooks and Scott Colton respectively, for the defamatory comments against Amann.

With WWE and Punk still on acrimonious terms with each other, commentators do not mention Punk’s name on-air, and don’t mention the fact that he was WWE’s longest-reigning champion in the “modern era.” His name still appears in the WWE website’s Alumni section, and many clips of his are available on the company’s YouTube account. But when it comes to WWE TV shows and pay-per-view events, it would seem that the only time Punk is referenced is in mockery, with nobody mentioning his name even as they clearly allude to him.

Trolling or tribute?

Eagle-eyed fans may have noticed it while watching Backlash on Sunday night, but for the benefit of those who didn't,Pro Wrestling Sheet editor-in-chief Ryan Satin had it captured for posterity, sharing a clip of the moment on his Twitter account. In this clip, Dolph Ziggler starts out the match by meeting a charging Miz with a double-leg takedown, mounting him with punches, then grabbing him in a rear-naked choke.

Satin described it as a “subtle nod,” then tweeted later that he believes it may have been more of a tribute, rather than an attempt to troll Punk.

That was in reaction to several retweets suggesting that WWE was mocking someone who is still in very bad terms with the company, and it truly wouldn’t be surprising if that’s the case.

It still could go either way, but for the meantime, it is what it is – one of the more underrated, overlooked moments in what was a very well-booked pay-per-view.

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