Former WWE Superstar Melina Perez was a guest on Instinct Culture with Denise Salcedo this week. During the interview, Melina spoke about her time with WWE and if she would ever consider returning to the company. She also discussed her current run with NWA, and the future of the brand.
Perez said that during her WWE run, she struggled with herself because of the heel persona she portrayed on TV. She said this caused her to believe everyone hated her, and it was the opposite of who she wanted people to see her as.
"I thought, 'Oh my god, everyone hates me,'" Perez admitted. "The depression happened more so because when I was a little kid, I wanted to be a doctor. My heart was like, I want to save the world, I want to help people... But when I felt like nothing I was doing was right, that's the way I felt.
"I thought everybody hated me, that I wasn't touching people lives, I wasn't making a difference in this world," she added. "I wanted to be a part of charities when I saw people doing all the charity stuff in WWE. I wanted to be a part of that but because I was a heel, I couldn't, so it felt like I wasn't doing anything."
Perez continued saying that her heel character was causing a lot of other negative stories and rumors about her to circulate, which only added to her depression.
"It was a weird time for me where saying my name was never a good thing," Perez recalled. "It's also associated with the heel character and the rumors and all this stuff... Because I was such a private person, people wanted to know about me. They were intrigued but they didn't see anything except the character. So, rumors get created and all this stuff, and I was raised to never talk about your personal life and it's okay as long you know the truth. Which are all great things to say and to believe in, but the reality is, if you don't educate people on who you are they are left to believe whatever they want to believe."
While with WWE, Perez said that having to keep kayfabe isolated her from not only the fans, but also her coworkers.
"15 years later, I hope people see who I actually am as a person," Perez said. "But it's been tough. It was hard for me to show people who I was. I was raised like a normal life [with] family and friends. And to go from that to being the most hated person, it was like, 'Where can I connect?' I wanna hug people, I wanted my fans to be family and hug them and thank them, but you have kayfabe and kayfabe is like, 'No, you can't be nice to people'.
"And it was so isolating that it just became depressing for me. I couldn't talk to anybody; I couldn't show love. And I was just Melina the heel character. And sometimes my co-workers believed it too, because I never talked. I was shy…. I couldn't tell my family because I didn't want them to worry, so in my mind, it was all about the work."
Perez said that in the years since she left, she has had plenty of good interactions with fans who say they were inspired by her work in WWE.
"Years after, when I started doing appearances, everybody started telling me about how I touched their life," Perez said. "The stories I would hear were more about the strength that [the Melina character] had, the ability to stand up for what she believes in, as well as the fashion and what not. It was just amazing and beautiful to see that. I thought, okay higher-power God, whatever is out there, thank you for this because this is what I needed to know, what I needed to hear.
"Because when I got that championship, I didn't believe I was supposed [to have it]. I didn't want it. It's like, I didn't pay my dues yet, I didn't have matches I wanted to yet, I am not on the level I believe I should be to have this honor. And then when they gave it to me anyway, I thought, I don't deserve it but I am gonna fight and work my hardest to be able to live up to this standard."
Since she left, the women have come a long way in WWE, even being featured in the main event at WrestleMania. But Perez says she never felt that that a change was coming during her time with the company.
"I feel [the WWE Divas] did a great job in the ring. Of course there were moments when we did, like, a bra and panties match," Perez said. "I did one pudding match, but that was one or two times out of a span of 6 years or 7 years, and everybody wants to think that those 7 years were nothing but bra and panties matches when they weren't.
"And every time we got the opportunity to go out there and try our hardest, even if it was for 2 minutes, we did it... And every time we went out there, it was in hopes that one day we'll get an opportunity. We were trying to prove to them that we deserve an opportunity to do more… But I knew in my heart that I was never gonna see [the change]. I knew I was never gonna see it during my time, but that didn't mean that I wasn't gonna try every single time I am there. It has to start somewhere."
On if she would return to WWE, Perez said she is happy with what she has been able to accomplish since leaving the company, but that doesn't mean she wouldn't be open to a return if the offer was there.
"I always say everything will happen if it's meant to happen," Perez explained. "If an opportunity shows up, of course. Like, who wouldn't? But if there's never an opportunity, I am okay with that too. I am thankful for what I've been able to do because I didn't even think I would be able to do that.
"I never in my wildest dreams ever thought that I would be on TV, or that I would have a video game or an action figure, or be in magazines in England, Australia, Mexico and different parts of other countries… I never thought I could do that, that that would be me. So all this, I am happy. I am very grateful."
Perez was last seen in the NWA, which has been on hiatus from producing content due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. She said that the resignation of Vice President, Dave Lagana, (as a result of the #SpeakingOut Movement) doesn't have to mean the end of the promotion.
"With one person, it doesn't have to hit the whole entire company," Perez said. "Whatever everybody chooses, I stand behind it and I understand. But I have faith and I know what NWA is capable of. I know that the fans will be supportive, that the wrestlers will be supportive, and as long as we all have each other, that's all that matters."