AJ Francis — formerly known as Top Dolla in WWE — has found a new home in Total Non Stop Action Wrestling (TNA).

The six-year NFL veteran was more than happy to speak with SlamWrestling.net about his interest in wrestling, how he made his decision to go to to TNA, Joe Hendry,  and his dream matchup of Moose for the title.

Growing up in Washington, DC, Francis was a wrestling fan with his earliest memory being the Iron Man match between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 12. Francis was furious when Gorilla Monsoon wanted the fight to be a sudden death match.

Football was his first calling though, starting for four seasons as a Terrapin at the University of Maryland, as a 6-foot-5 defensive tackle. Undrafted in the 2013 NFL Draft, he signed with the Miami Dolphins, putting wrestling on the backburner again.

The 33-year-old Francis played with the Dolphins, New York Giants, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Washington Football Team over six seasons, though he never managed to play a full season. He played the most games, six, with Washington. He wore jersey numbers 99, 96 and 64.

“My real dream was to become a professional wrestler, that’s what I always wanted to do,” Francis said. “It’s been awesome to actually be able to do so much and be blessed with so much opportunity. So many people would kill just to be in the NFL or just be a pro wrestler. So for me to able to that and other things like music, it’s been a blessing.”

In comparison, Francis said the workout regimens between American football and wrestling are completely different. In football, there are 30-second rests between each play, while in wrestling, you must able to go full on for five minutes or a slower paced 10-minute match. The cardio demands are completely different.

“I played defensive line, so I would be completely exhausted gorilla fighting another grown man. I barely hit the ground, I can count with my hand how many times I’ve been pancaked in my 15-year football career,” Francis said, referencing his high school and college days too. “But in wrestling, like hitting the mat, I still don’t take as many bumps but when you take a bump, all the air leaves your body and you have to get all the air back in.”

When it comes to his decision about where he would end up while he was a free agent, after being released by WWE, where he had been a part of the Hit Row faction with Isaiah “Swerve” Scott, Ashante “Thee” Adonis, Top Dolla, and manager B-Fab, Francis already had his mind set.

“I always wanted to go to TNA, it was honestly the first place I wanted to go. I had a lot of friends here, and over at the WWE, I felt I was under utilized,” he said. “At TNA, I felt like I would get the opportunity to show what I was capable of.” Francis is also competing in the NWA and MLW rings over the next few weeks. At MLW, he will be going by “AJ Franci$,” perhaps putting more emphasis on the fact he is chasing the “Top Dolla.”

Moose and Tommy Dreamer are good friends with Francis. They made a push for then-TNA President Scott D’Amore to sign him. D’Amore did and Francis’ presence in the locker room has been noted. On his podcast with Matt Cardona, Brian Myers said that he appreciates how much Francis cares and how much hard work he has put in.

“I was always like that,” Francis said. “If you ask anybody in the locker room, like the other room, Rey Mysterio, like LA Knight and the Usos, ask those guys. I really care about this because I love this.”

Recently on TNA Impact, Joe Hendry has been giving AJ Francis some problems, specifically teasing him with music parodies. Francis also has a music background and released music with Montez Ford. Francis said that he thinks the parodies are good but Hendry’s talent is nowhere near his. He said that the match-up between the two was perfect and said it’s going to be a great feud. Though he didn’t shut down the idea shut down the possibility of collaborating with Hendry musically.

“If Joe Hendry wants to do a song, money talks, have his people talk to my people,” he said.

Although Moose — who also played in the NFL — and Francis are good friends, Francis’ dream opponent is the TNA World Champion. In 2022, Moose brought B-Fab, Ashante “Thee” Adonis and Francis to WrestleMania to introduce them to D’Amore to try and get them to TNA. All three were released from WWE at the same time. Initially, Francis said no to the offer but after his time in the independent circuit, he took the offer. Francis said that Moose always looked out for him, but he wants to be champion as well.

“He’s obviously top dog and I want to be at the top,” he said. “Yeah, I came here and like my spot, and I play my role. But I think that everybody thinks this way. I think that if I was at the top, I could make some cool sh*t happen. He’s my homie, but I want that spot.”

AJ Francis will be at the next TNA pay per-view, TNA No Surrender on Feb. 23 streaming on TNA+.