At any pay-per-view wrestling event, the fans wait for one thing: the big names to show up. And it's no different with About Sixty: Why Every Sherlock Holmes Story Is The Best.
Because if you're going to pit Sherlock Holmes stories against each other in a cage fight, you know the crowd is going to be ready for a competitor named "Black Peter" to come in and do some damage. So when Carla Coupe leads "The Adventure of Black Peter" into the ring with both the word "perfect" and a description of how horrific Black Peter himself is, well, you know you've got some 'rasslin' about to go down.
The best competitors in this sixty-story Battle Royale make you start cheering them on as their promoter regales you with their attributes. And by that I mean "coming up with your own reasons why they're the best." For "Black Peter" I immediately thought, "easily recognizable cosplay," remembering a 221B Con attendee as bloody Holmes with harpoon. "Black Peter" tends to stand out in any crowd, and a Battle Royale is no different.
You'd almost feel sorry for the story to come into the ring after "Black Peter," if it wasn't the only other story with the name of a villain in its title. I mean, how bad-ass do you have to be to rate John Watson putting your name in the title? And so enters "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton" being managed by Beth Gallego.
"Charles Augustus Milverton," like "Black Peter," is a heel beyond heels. Unlike "Black Peter," Charles Augusts Milverton actually shows up in Baker Street and creeps Sherlock Holmes out, a move Beth does not hesitate to have her combatant bring to the table early. But does a superior villain beat out all other qualities that we love in a Holmes story?
Well, no, but "Charles Augustus Milverton" doesn't just depend on its villain, and Beth has the tale using a Watson finishing move that gives her tale the lead in the post-Reichenbach side of this tournament.
How do you attempt to take down "Milverton?" Well, when "Six Napoleons" suddenly charge into the ring promoted by Regina Stinson, you have your answer. Numbers!
"The Adventure of the Six Napoleons" comes in to literally bust heads, and Regina doesn't hesitate to use that. She reminds us how good Lestrade can be at ringside and brings in elements of a classic like "Speckled Band" without mentioning "Speckled Band" to distract from her own contestant. It's great to see how a skilled manager and a tale with all the right moves can make you forget even a show-stopper like Milverton.
I love it when a story's promoter seems to have looked at their competition and figured out their story's best move against what came before, and Rachel Kellogg has done exactly that with "The Adventure of the Three Students." "Three Students," right? Not seeming much of a threat, right?
Rachel reframes the competition as quickly as she can to give "Three Students" its best fighting chance -- this is the story to win over anyone in the audience who just walked into the arena. Going for the new reader, pushing "Three Students" as not just a good story, but the best first story, is a tactic I really liked, and it has helped turn what looked like a bad-guy blowout into a real horse race.
There are just so many good stories in the Canon of Sherlock Holmes. And when you've got good in the middle of a crowd of good, you can forget just how good "good" is. This About Sixty tournament is going to be down to the wire, I think, to switch sporting metaphors.
And that wire is still a long ways away . . . .