Denise Salcedo Invested In ‘Instinct’, Found Success With Her Hybrid Brand Of Pop Culture And Wrestling

Best For The Business—WrestleZone’s annual celebration of the people in the wrestling business that have made the “one true sport” a little better this year. This year was a completely different year that no one expected, and so much has radically changed in the past twelve months and still does each day in 2020.

COVID-19 affected the entire world—individuals, countries, industries—and it certainly took its toll on the professional wrestling world. All of the attention and buzz the independent scene created was gone, and many major promotions elected to halt tapings altogether as a precaution. Despite all of the setbacks, cancellations, and everything that went along with this year, we’re highlighting some of the names on-air and behind the scenes that helped make an unprecedented and uncertain year in the wrestling business a little better.

Denise Salcedo is a name that some of you may know already, but she’s well on her way to becoming one that you won’t be able to ignore. Salcedo has worked incredibly hard the past few years to establish her own brand, Instinct Culture by Denise Salcedo, and made some big moves in the pro wrestling world in 2020. You could even say she keeps cruising and can’t stop, won’t stop moving as she carves her own path in the wrestling business…

Denise initially got her start outside of wrestling, but soon found a role with the X-Pac 1 2 360 podcast. Now creating content for and appearing on Fightful, Pro Wrestling Sheet, F4WOnline, WrestleTalk and SportsKeeda (just to name a few), Denise has been steadily climbing the ranks of the professional wrestling media world and doing it on her own terms. This year was certainly her biggest yet, but she’s not done rising to the top by any means.

Salcedo came from the entertainment world, covering press junkets and movie premieres, but always saw pro wrestling as an avenue she wanted to explore. She saw two worlds she wanted to be part of and took cues from other content creators to create her Instinct Culture brand, and left college feeling like she wanted to be involved in the wrestling business, but wasn’t sure how to get her start. While she grew up a wrestling fan and studied broadcast journalism in college, she says “they would teach you that the way to get somewhere in media is to start in random small towns and didn’t like the prospect of leaving Los Angeles.

“That’s just what I really wanted, but at that point, WWE hadn’t really hired anybody that was like me. They hired women that looked very different from what I look like,” Salcedo said, “so I didn’t really think that there was a chance of ever being in that circle.”

Denise also thought job security by those already in place would prevent her from making a move into wrestling, so she decided to enter the world of entertainment instead. After many great opportunities and assignments, she still realized this wasn’t something she saw as a long-term plan and tried to get reacquainted with wrestling again. After jobs with AroLucha and X-Pac 1 2 360, she continued to find more and more opportunities as she progressed.

“One of the first events I covered for my channel was ExpoLucha. I went out to Las Vegas… I didn’t have money to go to Las Vegas! I got myself a press pass, I didn’t know anybody there whatsoever. I didn’t know anybody from Masked Republic, but I applied and I bought my camera, which I didn’t have money for either, put it on my credit card, and I basically did everything that I possibly could. I got out there and did all of these interviews in both English and Spanish, I researched all of these Luchadors and all of their history so that I could go there and bring out a pretty decent interview. I paid my own way and didn’t get any of the money back but I didn’t care because that ended up leading to something, that ended up leading to something else,” Salcedo said. “I noticed that you have to be willing to risk it all and put all of your eggs into one basket and just keep working and hope that something will eventually come of it. And what I’ve learned, is one thing has led to another and that’s led to another, and another, in every single thing. So, what I want to get at is when I started my YouTube channel that really changed everything for me because I really started showing the world what I can do instead of hoping that someone would give me that opportunity.”

Salcedo also did some work in MMA, and she says she met people along the way that were putting in the same amount of time and effort as her—and weren’t seeing the immediate results either. After putting in the years, she’s seeing paid opportunities and the type of career she really wants and says it sounded odd back then but you absolutely have to look at it as an opportunity to invest in yourself.

“People kept telling me, ‘keep doing what you’re doing, keep doing what you’re doing…’ and I was like, ‘Man, you guys are just telling me that because you don’t have any more answers for me.’ But it really is true—just keep doing what you’re doing. It sounds so dumb, but it really is what works,” Salcedo said.

It’s often been said that professional wrestling is male-dominated, but Salcedo isn’t letting that hold her back. Despite some holding the opinion that wrestling is still a “boys club”,  Salcedo doesn’t necessarily think that women are being held back. She says she’s getting the same opportunities and holds everyone to the same standards, and she wants to prove the stigma wrong by showing hard work pays off regardless of gender, and also hopes to set an example for any other women hoping to make the jump into wrestling media.

“I think that it’s been—trying to make it into this world of wrestling, which is male-dominated—everybody that I have worked with, whether it’s been a man, woman, it doesn’t matter—they’ve been extremely open and I’ve been given so many opportunities or helped along the way. I really just think it’s a matter of just going out there and putting in the work, and I hold men and women to the exact same standards. If you’re going to come out and break into the world of professional wrestling, I expect you to work just as hard as me, or whoever the top person in that field is. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, and we’re seeing examples of other women that have begun to do stuff or have been doing stuff and found success. They didn’t find that success because they’re women and they’re coming into a male-dominated industry, no, they’re finding that success because they’re working hard at it. I’m sure that there are many examples out there but I’m happy to be one of those few examples. I hope that with myself, I hope that people can be like, ‘Oh, there’s a space for women in this? I’m going to go out there and put everything that I’ve got into making it and become something like that,’ or maybe [they] become bigger than a Denise Salcedo, whatever it is.”

Finally reaching the goals she set out for herself, Salcedo says WWE was a goal for a long time but it’s not an answer that’s so easily defined anymore.

“Always, 100%. Everything I did was in hopes that they would one day notice me. That was the goal, and now, this year has been a bit of a question mark for me because I’m starting to see that I don’t necessarily have to be in WWE for a lot of cool things to happen. This [interview] is an example of that,” Salcedo said. “Now I’m here and why? It’s because of all of the things that I did before leading up to this.”

Despite all of the work that came before 2020, everything that happened this year was accidental in many ways and it’s where Salcedo feels like she still was able to learn a lot of the things that she’s imported into the wrestling world. Denise’s approach has been a bit different, blending her work in entertainment and wrestling with pop culture fandom. She saw an opportunity for personal growth, as well as a way to bring something fresh to the wrestling space, and now, in a glass-half-full situation—now has time to do many of the things she hoped for by devoting more time to her brand. People aren’t traveling and she found more time to pitch herself, her ideas and dove headfirst into her channel by working on relationship building with PR, talent, etc.

“The advice I got before I started the channel was to talk about things that I love. I love Taylor Swift, I love wrestling, I love pop music and I love TV shows. Great,” Salcedo said. “that’s what my channel is going to be and that’s the direction I took it.”

Denise said she didn’t set out looking for ‘scoops’ and just wanted to have conversations so that the wrestling content blended in with her other features. She says she referred to it as an entertainment channel more than anything and says it’s cool to see those two worlds integrate. Taking cues from some of the women finding success today, she says that she might not have it all figured out just yet but we’re seeing a snapshot of where she’ll eventually get to.

“I just want to be somebody that’s known for—just known. I don’t have a specific [genre] because I have so many different things that I love from so many different people that I would love to incorporate all of that. I love Renee Young’s personality and the impact that she’s had on the wrestling world. I would love something like that. I also love Charly Caruso, she isn’t just wrestling and she has sports there too. I love that aspect and see myself like that, but in the entertainment world. I also love Kayla Braxton’s personality and how she’s been able to do a little bit of everything in WWE. There’s a bunch of people that I look up to outside of wrestling, and I want to take that and mix it in a pot and make my own version of that. It’s not a clear, concise [answer] but it’s just like a little vision of what I’d eventually like to accomplish.”

Read More: Best For The Business 2020: Pro Wrestling’s Most Influential People, Promotions and Brands