After Hit Row returned on SmackDown last night (Aug. 12), AJ “Top Dolla” Francis was a guest on Busted Open to talk about the group’s journey from being called up and quickly released by WWE last fall to being brought back by Triple H. Along the way, he also addressed rumors he’s hard to work with, and confirmed he had issues with the previous regime.
“Even when Hunter was not in NXT, even when we went up to SmackDown, even when we got released, I never stopped talking to Hunter. We had talked a lot already about hopefully working together in the future. I sent him clips of the stuff we were doing. I sent him clips from GCW, ACW in Trinidad, and clips of me and [Ashante Adonis] working together as a tag team, letting him know the band was still together.
“Swerve [Strickland, fka Scott in WWE] being added to Hit Row was a Hunter call. Hunter added Swerve to Hit Row because he already saw what we had been doing for a year and was like, ‘This is a good opportunity to debut a faction instead of a tag team with a manager.’ It was cool, it was a good idea, it clearly worked, but Hunter saw it when it was just the three of us. He knew what we were capable of from jump.
“When [Triple H] got the reins and is like, ‘I want to bring my guys back,’ we were one of his top priorities to get back because he knew what we could bring to the table. About a week and a half ago, he hit me up and was like, ‘How are the rest of the guys?’ ‘We’re good.’ None of us wasted time this whole time. We never stopped training and never stopped being ready. He was like, ‘How fast can I act and get you guys here?’
“This was on Wednesday of last week. ‘If you really want us, we can be there tomorrow.’ We ended up having a Zoom call with him, the three of us, and planned out what would happen the next couple of days. This week, we got physicals and contracts.
“I don’t know how the story broke that I was going to be there, but I knew it wasn’t somebody with all the information because they didn’t know [B-Fab] was going to be there, which we played into. When me and [Ashante] came through the curtain, you thought it was just going to be us, and we had [B-Fab] come through last. ‘Yeah, she’s here too.’ She’s an important part of the group.”
Francis talked about the issues the group had with the Vince McMahon/John Laurinaitis management team, especially after B-Fab’s release (which Swerve spoke about here). He said there were a “a myriad of reasons” the rest of the group was let go not long after its female member was cut:
“People love to say I’m hard to work with. I’m not. I’m hard to fool.
“Everyone in the world thinks they know who I am. Everyone in the world thinks I’m hard to work with. People who never worked with me had one conversation with me and felt they could talk down to me like I’m not a 30-year-old man. I told them about themselves and then they get in their buddies’ ears like I’m hard to work with. In actuality, I’m not hard to work with, I’m hard to fool. You can’t tell me something that’s not true and you’re not going to stand on. That’s how I was raised. If that makes me wrong, I’m going to be wrong forever.”
That experience almost soured him on the business as a whole, but he’s got a whole new outlook working for Triple H.
“It was a really cool process because Hunter... there are a million people Hunter could run back. The list is hundreds of people long that are talented performers that were released in the last five years that are still young and able to do these things. A million people he could bring back, but he called us. That made me feel, not just special, but grateful. That’s why I will sing his praises to the high heavens...
“In the conversation I had with Triple H, he was like, ‘I don’t know what happened before, and to be honest, I don’t care. It’s a new place. I want you to understand that you have a clean slate. There are no hard feelings on this side, I hope you come with no hard feelings on your side.’
“It was a breath of fresh air. I was down when we got released. Hit Row was hotter than anything in wrestling. Period. I don’t care who you are, get your feelings hurt if you want. When we got release, I feel we had something great and it turned into ashes in my hand. It made me stop watching wrestling for the first time in my life. I went eight months without watching wrestling.”
Check out Top Dolla’s entire chat with the Busted Open crew here.