AJ Francis says there’s nothing like the rush of being in a wrestling ring.
Francis is hosting his seventh annual canned food drive this weekend. The charity event will occur during the University of Maryland Terrapins’ NCAA football game. The event will benefit the Sarah’s House children’s homeless shelter in Fort Meade, Maryland.
Francis, aka Top Dolla in WWE, spoke to WrestleZone about how playing football and his father’s influence helped impact his life in a great way. He played six seasons in the NFL, but Francis expanded his brand in a new way through pro wrestling.
Francis noted he was more of a “utility player” in the NFL, but he was more of a recognized name in WWE. In comparing the two experiences, he said nothing beat the rush of being in the ring during his WWE tenure.
“I didn’t have a Marshawn Lynch-type career in the NFL. So when I left the NFL, there were people that knew me and I was famous and all that jazz,” Francis explained. “But I became way more of a household name thanks to wrestling, thanks to the WWE. It was cool to be able to live out that dream of being in WWE.”
There’s nothing like it
Francis always had a dream of making it to WWE, but it was a totally different experience than he could have prepared himself for.
“It hits different when you actually are a performer. Once you feel the rush of going through that curtain, or kicking out at 2.9 and the crowd thought it was over,” Francis explained, “or blowing your comeback or anything that is like a big high-intensity moment in wrestling. There’s nothing like that though. There’s nothing like it.
“I played on Thursday Night Football, Thanksgiving night, 10 million people watching at home, [It was] one of the biggest games of the year. I made a TFL [tackle for loss] that helped us win the game. I’m telling you, wrestling, doing a segment with LA Knight in Madison Square Garden felt better,” Francis said. “I have something else incredibly cool to compare it to, and it’s still way cooler. There’s nothing like it.”
Francis was released by WWE on September 23, 2023, and he is waiting for his no-compete clause to expire. His last match was a six-person mixed tag team loss to the LWO’s Cruz Del Toro, Joaquin Wilde & Zelina Vega on September 10.
Francis teased that he has a lot of plans in the works, most of it not centered around pro wrestling. However, he doesn’t plan on going anywhere because the thrill of stepping in the ring is still with him.
“I am not going nowhere. I am still a professional wrestler and I will stay a professional wrestler. That will always be a part of my life. I was given the gift of being able to do it, and it’s not going nowhere, so don’t worry. I guess it’s just because I come from the NFL,” Francis said. “The funny thing is, I did do a year on the indies before I signed the WWE, but people don’t know that, right? So they say, I didn’t come from the Indies, I come from the NFL. So when I leave WWE, people assume that I’m no longer going to want to wrestle.
“The thrill is in me. It’s the best drug I’ve ever taken and it’s not going anywhere. I love the fact that I can still do it anywhere. And I love the fact that I was given the opportunity from the WWE to be able to put my name out there and be able to do it at the highest level,” he added. “Now, I get an opportunity to go around the world doing it still.”
The 7th Annual AJ Francis Canned Foor Drive takes place at SECU Stadium on Saturday, November 18. Fans can bring canned food items and new personal care items. If you are unable to attend, monetary donations can also be made on the charity’s website.
Check out our full interview with AJ Francis below: