As a guest on the latest episode of the WWE After the Bell Podcast with Corey Graves, AJ Francis, a.k.a. Top Dolla, joined the show to speak about the origins of his faction Hit Row. The former NFL player stated that he originally had the idea for the group while he was working in the indies.
“It’s amazing because this is an idea that I’ve had for years, the record label faction,” Dolla said. “I did it on the indies, we were called ‘The Row’ because I look like Suge Knight, obviously. It’s something I’ve wanted to do my whole life. I’ve watched WWE before I could walk, before I could talk with my dad. Even when I was in the NFL, my dream was to always be in WWE, and people thought I was crazy that I was in the NFL and I would tell them I hadn’t accomplished my dream yet.
“To get the opportunity with the Most Wanted Treasures TV show to debut in May, and then less than five months later, I’d be on SmackDown? Clearly not only was the idea good about the record label crew, but also the guys that I’m with. It’s not me carrying it like it was when I was on the indies. I’ve got stars with me in this crew who all bring something different to the table, which gives everybody something to relate to depending on what kind of sports entertainment you like. I think there’s a lot of things we can bring to the table, and we haven’t even showed them on SmackDown.”
Along with several other notable WWE stars, Hit Row Records’ B-Fab was released from the company on Wednesday. Top Dolla also revealed another name he had envisioned in his original Hit Row faction. The 31-year-old also spoke about the inclusion of Isiah “Swerve” Scott into the group, and why he thought he’d be a great addition to the faction.
“I came to WWE with this idea and when I first got here, I actually wanted to do the faction with Swerve [Scott] and Lio Rush because they both rapped,” Dolla said. “Lio got released, and Swerve was doing his mad scientist character that he was doing, so I was like, let me focus on myself. Then Ryan Katz, who works in the [WWE] performance center, he sends me a text message and he’s like ‘What do you think about working with Tahooty?’ I was like, I can still do the record label thing and me and Tahooty can be a tag. It would be a great thing. We did that for a year and we were known as the Hit Makers.
“Everybody in the PC loved it because it was the same thing we’re doing now. I did the WWEs Most Wanted Treasures Show, and three days after that show debuted and did great numbers, Hunter pulled me and Swerve aside and was like, ‘What do you think about Swerve joining with your guys’ crew?’ Swerve was a rapper, and Swerve didn’t know this, but I wanted him from the beginning, so when they asked us that, I was like, absolutely. Not only is he a rapper, but he brings something else to the table. He’s travelled the world wrestling and immediately answers the question of ‘can these guys even wrestle?’ Two weeks later, we caught Leon Ruff off the ladder and we were off to the races.”
AJ Francis spoke about how Triple H and Shawn Michaels allowed Hit Row to do their vignettes on their own. The former New York Giant said the group is leaderless, and he’s heard the discussions on social media about who the leader of the group is.
“The cool thing is, and I’m forever grateful to Hunter for this and Shawn, is the fact that they even said, ‘Bro, we’re in our 50s, we can’t tell you how to talk, and sound cool, and be rappers.’ Even from the very beginning, we got to do our own thing,” Dolla said. “They told us what we wanted, and we went out and did it how we would do it. We were doing them on the PC, but I was trying to get them to come to my crib. I have a very professional real looking recording studio in my house.
“There were a lot of people on the internet that get mad like Swerve was the leader of Hit Row in NXT and now Top Dolla is the leader. There is no leader in Hit Row. Just like there’s no leader in The Shield, there’s no leader in Hit Row. We all are leaders because we all feel like we’re stars, we all feel like we’re waiting for our opportunity and it came at the same time. There is no leader, we are all leaders and that’s what makes our crew cool too because there’s no egos involved. Do we gain anything from bickering over who should shine more when we can all shine?”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit WWE After the Bell with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.