The Puerto Rican fighter was the first active boxer to come out last year and earned his shot at the vacant WBO featherweight title with two subsequent victories.
But Cruz (20-3-1, 10 KOs), who suffered a seventh-round knockout loss, fell short in his first bout at the highest level as he was out-fought and overpowered by Salido who was crowned champion for the third time.
Salido's last reign came to an end in January when the 32-year-old Mexican was stopped by Mikey Garcia but the new champion then weighed in heavy for his first defense against Juan Manuel Lopez.
Although he won the fight in the fourth round, his indiscretion meant he could not retain the title.
That offered Salido the chance to regain his place at the top of the division — one he wasn't going to let slip away.
A tentative first round saw Cruz — wearing rainbow trunks — twice warned for low blows as both men showed a reluctance to commit in the opening stages.
But it was Salido who increased the tempo in the second round, taking control of the centre of the ring and showing more conviction in his punches.
The 32-year-old Cruz continued to show a reluctance to engage as he attempted to dance away from his opponent and Salido eased into an early lead on the scorecards.
As if finally acknowledging the deficit, Cruz began to fight fire with fire in the fourth session but the volume of punches from Salido continued to increase.
Having soaked up the best Salido could offer, Cruz enjoyed his best round in the fifth but was soon retreating again as the bout reached the halfway stage.
After Cruz's valiant challenge and burst of power ran out of gas, a right hook and left uppercut from Salido ended the fight just over a minute into the seventh round.
Salido is expected to defend his title against amateur sensation Vasyl Lomachenko in January after the Ukrainian began his professional career with a stoppage victory.