AJ “Top Dolla” Francis on the first time he was released by WWE and his return, Paul Heyman backing him

By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)

Insight With Chris Van Vliet with guest AJ “Top Dolla” Francis
Host: Chris Van Vliet
Podcast available via Podcasts.Apple.com

On his WWE release the first time: “The first time I got released, personally, I don’t know [why]. Once again, nobody’s ever told me. No one’s ever been like, this is what happened. They always make it seem like oh, this is just business right? And budget cuts, that’s what they always try to make it seem but it never feels like that. The first time I got released it felt like I got released because I stood up for B-Fab. That’s what it felt like. It felt like because B-Fab got released, because what happened was when they were doing a bunch of call-ups. They were getting ready for the draft in 2021. John Laurinaitis came to the PC, and they would have shows and they would just have him sit and watch acts because John Laurinaitis and Vince [McMahon], they weren’t watching NXT. I’m sorry, this is a newsflash, but they don’t watch [NXT]. They didn’t watch the next day, so they didn’t know anybody on NXT. They would literally come to the PC and see the talent in the PC and oh, okay, that’s cool, I wonder what I can do with him.

“So B-Fab had already planned a vacation that she was going on, right? They sprung a show up on us on a Wednesday, they’re like, Oh, we got a PC show Saturday for John Laurinaitis, but B-Fab was already out of town. So she was gonna change her stuff to get back and she wasn’t wrestling anyway. It was a singles match, me versus Mace. Swerve [Strickland), and Tehuti [Miles] were there. So the first time that John Laurinaitis ever lays eyes on Hit Row, it’s just me, Tehuti and Swerve. He doesn’t even know B-Fab is there with the crew, which in my opinion, she was the most integral part of the crew. Because, let’s say you want to take the four original members of Hit Row, and you want to get rid of one of them. Well, if you get rid of me, you still have a beautiful woman valet who can also wrestle and you got a good tag team. If you get rid of Swerve, it’s a beautiful woman valet that can wrestle and you have a tag team.

“If you get rid of Ashante ‘Thee’ Adonis, it’s still a beautiful woman valet and you got a cool tag team. But if you get rid of B-Fab, we’re just a Hip Hop New Day. We were not different, we’re just a three-man group. She was the special element plus she raps, she’s sexy. I go places where people see me because they see how big I am. But they stare at her. She got released because whatever reason they released her for. I feel like John Laurinaitis didn’t think she was a necessary part of Hit Row. Because when he saw Hit Row, she wasn’t with us. So when she got released, I went to Laurinaitis and Vince, and was like, Yo, I feel like you shouldn’t have done that. I feel like she added a lot to the group. I feel like, yes, we can still do this and it’ll still work. But I feel like you shouldn’t have done that. And that conversation is somehow I’m an asshole three years later. Mind you, she’s still in WWE right now. So clearly I was right. Clearly I was correct.”

On his WWE return: “Then I get brought back because Hunter [Paul Levesque] gets the power. And Hunter recognizes the wrong of the situation as well. So Hunter calls me and says, When can I have you? And I was like tomorrow if you booked a flight, I’m ready right now. I was like, but I don’t want to come back if I’m not coming back with the rest of the Row. I don’t know if me saying that is the reason he decided to bring them back too or if he was already going to bring us all back. But I said that to him. So then two days later, we set up a call with all of us and Hunter laid out the plan, and then we re-debuted the week after that. And that’s when we came out in North Carolina. And it was a great time and the crowd reacted crazy. But then like after that, like there was never really a plan for Hit Row. We would pitch ideas and 90 percent of times they wouldn’t use them. And a lot of times when they did use them like it was cool and it worked.”

On Paul Heyman: “The one good thing is that Paul Heyman used to stand up for me a lot. And Paul Heyman would say they can’t see the difference between what John Cena and Max Caster and what you’re doing. He said, Theirs is like, not comedy, but kayfabe rap. It’s rap within the wrestling realm. Yours is like actual, livable, breathable hip hop. And he said because of that it makes it more real. So if you’re not into that you can’t understand it. Do they not want me to do it? No, they had no problem with me doing it. They just wouldn’t go and put them on TV. There’s so many times Paul Heyman would text me, This should be how we start the show tonight. I would send him a video, I sent him one I did for the Christmas show. He was like, This should start the show tonight. I did it, sent them so many different ones that we did. And mind you I never get my flowers, Hit Row never gets our flowers. When LA Knight had that 2 million view video on YouTube in 24 hours from the Madison Square Garden dark show, we were in the segment with him.

“No one ever gave us our flowers for that. I don’t know how many times that happened on WWE, not just with LA Knight, but just on WWE YouTube since, but we never got flowers for that. The only match that that was promoted for the Christmas show. That’s one of the highest-watched shows in Smackdown history and I think the highest-watched pre-taped show in WWE history. The only promoted match for that was Usos vs. Hit Row for the Tag Team Titles, we never got flowers for that. But Paul Heyman would always show me love. I would send him my videos, and he would love them. I would send other people my videos and they would love them, but they just would never put them on TV. And then sometimes I would make videos we would make videos, Hit Row, and we would send it to the creative team. And they’d be like this is great. We’re gonna try to put this on the show. Then something would happen I don’t know who, I don’t know why, but it just wouldn’t be a part of the show.”


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