Tragedy struck the Ontario independent wrestling scene on Saturday night, with the passing of Rob Thomson, aka Rob Rage, after suffering a cardiac arrest backstage at a wrestling show.

Thomson, 45 at the time of his passing, had come backstage after competing in a match at the Hammering Cancer 4 fundraising show in Hamilton, Ontario. A person close to the situation told that Thomson went into cardiac arrest after coming back to the dressing room. Some fellow wrestlers performed CPR until medical responders arrived on-scene. Despite their best efforts to resuscitate him, Thomson reportedly passed away in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.

Thomson had been a mainstay on the Ontario scene for the past several years, competing for various promotions, including Crossfire Wrestling, Classic Championship Wrestling, and Deathproof Wrestling. A bodybuilder with a billed weight of just under 300 pounds, Thomson went by the moniker the “Muscle Messiah” and “Tyrannosaurs Pecs” in addition to occasionally wrestling as “Warrior Rage” when wearing Road Warrior style make-up. The similarities between he and that legendary tag team weren’t lost on the producers of the Dark Side of the Ring series, and Rage was selected to portray Road Warrior Hawk on the episode about him. In addition to Hawk, Rage also played other giants and near-giants including Dr. D David Schultz and Hulk Hogan on other episodes.

Rob Rage as Road Warrior Hawk on the Dark Side of the Ring set

Though he was a big man – and with his self-admitted old-school mentality, he enjoyed wrestling as such – Thomson was not the proverbial “big, dumb guy.” He graduated from York University with a double major in Kinesiology and History, while also playing football, eventually playing that sport professionally in Europe.

He also competed on the body-building circuit for a stint before deciding to try his hand at professional wrestling, starting his training with famed trainer Rob “Fuego” Echevarria. Fuego remembered that Thomson “was a great student, who always showed up to work hard. It was an honour to have helped break him into the business. He will be missed.”

After honing his craft with Fuego, Thomson’ career took off, leading to him wrestling at various companies in Ontario, Quebec, and other places.

In addition to his many in-ring appearances, Thomson also took on some acting roles, finding work in commercials and movies, including the movie The Masked Saint, in which he starred along with “Rowdy” Roddy Piper – he shared stories about working with Piper in a 2020 interview with Slam.

Rob Rage and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper

Rob Rage and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper

Outside of wrestling, Thomson worked as a personal trainer and the Fitness Manager at a gym in Mississauga, Ontario. Family-wise, Thomson is survived by two sisters and his mother. Thomson was also the parent of a “fur baby” and best friend, a Rottweiler who had lost one leg to cancer. In further sad news, Thomson’s family notified us that when Thomson’s friends went to pick up the dog after Thomson’s passing, the dog was found dead.

A larger than life character in the ring, Thomson was also very vocal online, often using his Facebook page to quote scripture or post Bible verses. He also wasn’t shy about sharing his political views, which leaned quite to the right, and often posted anti-mask and anti-vax messages during the pandemic.

Though staunchly unapologetic for his views, and happy to debate with anyone who engaged him in debate, Thomson was always respectful, kind, and generous to people – even if they vehemently disagreed with him. Belying his “Rage” moniker, friends considered him to be a big-hearted person who would go out of his way to make someone smile, including fans – Thomson prided himself on not refusing to take pictures with fans or to sign autographs at shows, even when he was playing the bad guy.

That dichotomy was captured in many of the tributes from friends, fans, and fellow wrestlers that poured onto the internet on Saturday night after news of his passing broke.

Ontario wrestler John Greed wrote: “He wasn’t for everybody. He didn’t want to be. But he was my friend.”

Chris Mysterion, famed magician who also acted as Rage’s manager at various shows over the past decade, called Thomson, “A warrior in the ring. A gentle giant and gentleman in the locker room.”

Wrestler Ryan Donovan posted the following tribute:

“So sadden to hear of the Passing of Rob Thomson A.K.A Rob Rage. My heart goes out to him and my condolences to his family and friends. Weather it was standing across the ring from him or getting to work with him on Dark Side of the Ring. He was always there to make you laugh and lend and ear. I got to know him a little more personally during our scenes together, talking about wrestling and our love for fitness, he was just a really good guy. It’s in these times that we must cherish our lives even if we are down because it can be taken from us in a second.. Thank you for the times we shared.  RIP Rob ”

Perhaps the best tribute to Thomson comes from a photo he posted on his own Facebook page this past week. In a photo captioned as describing one’s true self, Thomson was captioned as having “Unbreakable Strength”, and described as being “a whirlwind of passion, independence, and loyalty. The kind of person who will never let someone else have to face their problems alone, but won’t hesitate to speak the savage truth when necessary. Your heart is as large as the world.”

Editor’s Note: The original version of this story inaccurately noted that Thomson was an only child, and included the wrong age at the time of his passing.