So much of what attracts audiences to pro wrestling centers on the personality and presentation of its performers. Building an intriguing persona that engages with viewers supersedes nearly all of the industry’s metrics of success.

Knowing that, it’s no surprise that the rising profile of LGBTQ pro wrestling continues to generate entertaining in-ring performers. This isn’t simply because the spectrum of LGBTQ personalities still feels refreshing in the medium. It’s because pro wrestling beckons those involved to explore the tenets of self-expression in unique ways.

Two men who know this very well are Calvin Couture and Tyler Klein, collectively known as the tag team The Runway. The Pittsburgh-based duo have seen their profile heighten incredibly since joining forces over a year ago, with memorable appearances at EFFY’s Big Gay Brunch, Camp Leapfrog and MV Young Polyam Cult Party 2.

That rise in visibility is attributable to their commitment to the craft and strong friendship that transcends the in-ring presentation. But most of all, The Runway’s collective and individual success is a result of the confidence that comes from the comfort of self-expression without apology.

“Everyone should be able to have that canvas, to paint what they want with it and follow their dream,” Couture remarked on Outsports’ LGBT In The Ring podcast. “The wrestling mat is a canvas for us. We’re just artists. We want to throw characters out there, we want to make magic and we want to create memories not just for ourselves but for the people in the crowd.”

And both the Fashionista and Trophy Boy have taken advantage of pro wrestling’s easel, crafting themselves into performers equal parts genuine and bombastic. “Wrestling was a stress release for me. It was a chance for me to not be who I was in everyday life and be Tyler; that over-the-top obnoxious inner me that always wanted to get out. It’s everything,” Klein told Outsports.

“The Calvin character doesn’t necessarily identify as any sexual orientation … its up for interpretation for anybody that sees it,” Couture said. “I think that’s almost stronger, as seeing someone like myself playing that character, to just be yourself.”

That commitment to self-expression gave the tandem a platform beyond even their own initial vision. “We’ve gotten a lot of fun opportunities and things that I never thought I’d be able to really do anywhere,” Klein said. “Being part of [The Collective] just blows my mind.”

For themselves and those who watch them, The Runway’s message of free self-expression rings loud and clear throughout the industry. “You can be whoever you want to be,” Couture said.

“100 percent,” Kelin added.

Check out the full interview with Calvin Couture and Tyler Klein on Outsports’ LGBT In The Ring podcast. Download and listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and all other podcast platforms.