It is the only true wrestling match of the entire canon of Sherlock Holmes. And, like modern professional wrestling, there are those who say it was entirely "fake," even proposing that Mr. Alec Cunningham watched no wrestling match at all. And there are those who say "performative, choreographed" wrestling, as we know pro wrestling today, did not begin until the 1920s.
But in April of 1887, we have Cunningham describing see a backyard wrestling match, that stands as a primordial example of the sports entertainment pro wrestling we know now. Note how one can so easily describe the contenders:
In this corner, "a middle-sized man, dressed in some dark stuff," from parts unknown. In the other, William "The Coachman" Kirwan. It's no coincidence that one hundred and twelve years later, the WWE would feature a commentator, executive assistant, and eventual interim general manager named Jonathan William Coachman -- an obvious tribute to Kirwan's legacy.
The actual moves in the match aren't described, but Kirwan dies from a "shot." In modern wrestling, the term is now a "shoot," which is an unscripted, actual attack, which is very dangerous to its target. If it were really a bullet wound, wouldn't there have been some mention of blood in the account? No. This was all about the Cunningham's trying to cover up a tragic backyard wrestling accident.
Why didn't Sherlock Holmes get that? Well, sports entertainment wrestling was still pretty much unheard of in 1887, and even though we like to think Holmes knew everything about everything, sadly, he didn't.
"Of course, we do not yet know what the relations may have been between Alec Cunningham, William Kirwan, and Annie Morrison," Holmes admits at the end of his investigation, having just found the note which read, "If you will only come tonight at quarter to twelve to the east gate you will learn what will very much surprise you and maybe be of the greatest service to you and also to Annie Morrison. But say nothing to anyone upon the matter."
Doesn't that sound like Cunningham was simply setting up a match for "the Coachman" and his number one fan (or manager?) Annie Morrison? Sherlock Holmes doesn't bother to talk to Annie after being throroughly distracted by the Cunninghams simply trying to show him some of their wrestling moves. He simply came up with an interpretation of the events that would get him back to Baker Street the quickest, after Watson forced that vacation on him.
"The Reigate Squires" has always been a troubled tale, with American publishers changing the name to "The Reigate Puzzle" as they saw the obvious difficulties in Holmes's solution. I would even suggest that the original title was "The Reigate Square," before Watson's agent took out any references to the "squared circle" of the wrestling ring found in Cunningham's backyard.
Do I go too far? Or did Sherlock Holmes not go far enough?