Jan 28, 2023; San Antonio, TX, USA; Cody Rhodes celebrates after winning the men’s WWE Royal Rumble match at the Alamodome. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports | Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

WWE star Cody Rhodes has the WWE championship square in his sights as he prepares to challenge Roman Reigns at WrestleMania for the second straight year, but having a moment that large on the horizon isn’t keeping him from empowering as many pro wrestling fans as possible along the way.

At a WWE house show in Fresno, Calif., on Sunday, Rhodes embraced a young trans fan in the crowd who brought a trans flag to the show and posed with him for a photo in which Rhodes proudly displayed the flag.

The fan customized the flag by drawing Rhodes’ “American Nightmare” logo on it, and the photo has drawn praise on social media alongside the mantra “Wrestling is for Everyone” in the days since.

The moment captured in the photo is made all the more special considering where it occurred. Fresno is the metropolitan hub of California’s Central Valley, one of the state’s most conservative regions.

Obviously an area’s cultural climate doesn’t reflect every individual within it, but seeing such a public statement of queer celebration and support in the region is emboldening.

“Yeah [it] was lowkey scary [because] there were some guys around that looked a lil unimpressed but I came out of it unscathed so hey I’m really glad I did it, [especially] seeing how many other trans people this has touched,” the fan said on Reddit. “I just thought the message would be good and seeing how many other trans [people] it’s reached def tells me it was worth it.”

While queer acceptance and outward celebratory displays of LGBTQ populations is very common within independent pro wrestling, they are beginning to appear more in relation to major televised pro wrestling promotions in recent years.

Out gay AEW star Anthony Bowens received positive “He’s Gay” chants from AEW fans live on television last year; current WWE star CM Punk publicly expressed support for trans and LGBTQ youth during his stint with AEW; TNA Wrestling held major pro wrestling’s first Pride Night last summer and out non-binary AEW star Abadon delivered the most nuanced discussion on the fluidity of gender featured on wrestling programming on AEW’s web series “Hey! (EW)” just last month.

Rhodes’ support for trans people within pro wrestling extends even further, though. A number of LGBTQ pro wrestlers have trained at his pro wrestling school The Nightmare Academy, including out trans wrestlers Kidd Bandit and Saraya Saber.