Chris Jericho was almost arrested in the ring during a match in Brazil – as he insulted the crowd and disrespected the flag, which is a crime.
The former WWE and AEW Champion has never been one to hold back in his work. As a heel, he has always pushed boundaries to get the best performance out of himself and his opponents that he could. Whether it’s mocking the crowd, subverting their expectations (such as when he waited all match for a hot tag, played to the crowd then tagged out and walked away immediately) or mocking his opponents, he’s never been shy when going all in as a bad guy.
However, during a show in Brazil in 2012, Y2J may have gone slightly too far when trying to get the local fans to boo him. At the house show in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Jericho faced off with CM Punk for the latter’s WWE Championship. The pair had been rivals throughout 2012 and faced off at Wrestlemania 28, in a street fight, to decide who would be WWE Champion.
The duos feud had been heated throughout. Jericho used Punk’s aversion to alcohol, and the story of his alcoholic father, to get under the skin of the Straight-Edged Superstar. Meanwhile, Punk proved he was the best in the world, going toe-to-toe with Jericho both in the ring and on the microphone, leading to some very memorable segments between the two of them,
However, in a match in Sao Paulo, Brazil on May 24th, 2012 (according to pro-wrestling fandom), CM Punk defended his WWE Championship against Chris Jericho in a No-Disqualification match. This came less than two months after their Wrestlemania bout and went a long way to selling the show to the fans of the WWE in South America. It was common for the WWE to rehash previous matches on these show, or to showcase upcoming PPV matches so that the wrestlers could work together to figure out the best way to wrestle in the upcoming weeks.
During the match, CM Punk had been given a Brazilian flag by a fan and wore it into the ring. Being the heel and wanting the crowd to hate him, Chris Jericho took the flag, crumpled it up into a ball and kicked it out of the ring. In most countries, this would cause a lot of good-natured booing, but in Brazil it caused a frenzy. Fans were outraged at the disrespect of their flag by the WWE star.
The reaction was so intense that the police had to step in and stop the match. Local police stopped the fight and almost arrested Jericho. They gave him two options – either he could apologise to the crowd for his actions, or go to jail for desecrating the flag (a crime in Brazil). Sensing he may have gone too far, the Canadian grabbed a microphone and immediately apologised for his actions, claiming he was “happy to be here” and “loved Brazil”. The match continued and he lost to CM Punk, who retained the WWE Championship.
According to a report by TMZ at the time:
Cops gave Jericho an option — apologize to the arena … or go to jail. Chris chose the former … grabbing the mic and telling the crowd he immediately regretted his actions. Cops allowed the event to continue.
Chris Jericho suspended by the WWE following the conclusion to the match. He faced 30 days on the side-lines for his potentially criminal actions in Brazil and was forced to apologise to the fans he offended. In a statement on WWE.com, the former WCW star claimed he “made a bad judgement call” but that he “did it with fans entertainment in mind”.
“I made a bad judgment call in the course of entertaining [WWE] fans in Brazil,” Jericho told WWE.com. “I apologized to the people in the crowd for showing disrespect. It was a bad move,” Jericho said. “I did it with [our] fans’ entertainment in mind and I’ll accept the consequences for that.”
Luckily, his suspension coincided with a European tour his band, Fozzy, was having in Europe that month. It’s possible his suspension was done to placate Brazilian authorities and given the fact that he would be out for those 30 days regardless, it’s likely that was the case. He returned to WWE on the June 25th episode of Monday Night Raw, and went on to compete in the Money in the Bank ladder match a few weeks later (which was won by John Cena).