Saturday, July 2, 2022

Kayfabe Sherlockiana versus Shoot Sherlockiana

Are Sherlockiana and pro wrestling all that different?

Now, before you answer, let me qualify that statement a little bit: Are parts of Sherlockiana and pro wresting all that different?

If you say "wrestling," you can mean two things: One is sports entertainment "professional" wrestling. The other is the official sport, from high school to Olympic level. Both are wrestling -- each just comes to mind first for some people more than others.

Which is kind of like Sherlockiana.

The idea of mixing Watson's records with our own historical record to expand Sherlock Holmes's universe has been with us from early on. It's fandom at its purest, finding a way to further your enjoyment of a limited resource. And a lot of Sherlockians love the hell out of that "game."

But as Conan Doyle transitioned from wacky celebrity to respected historical figure, as The Baker Street Journal went from fan-produced to college-press-produced, as academic careers were inspired by the stories, Sherlockiana gained an actually serious side to match its fake-serious side. And as before, many a fan of Sherlock Holmes found Conan Doyle's history and other works a way to expand their enjoyment of that limited sixty-story resource.

Wrestling has similar commonalities, notably Olympic wrestler Kurt Angle who crossed over to professional wrestling. While Ronda Rousey's bronze medal was for judo, she was also an Olympic athlete who made it to pro wrestling. Mark Henry, Bill Goldberg, Brock Lesnar . . . the list of athletes who crossed over from "serious" sports to "sports entertainment" is long and storied.

The phrase "Sherlockian scholarship" began as a sort of written sports entertainment, but as real academic work on the author and subject came along, the word "scholarship" could be seen describing actual scholarship about Sherlock Holmes, as well as the old game play "scholarship."

Which is a lot like the word "wrestling." Context is everything.

Except WWE's Monday Night RAW or AEW Dynamite don't tend to mix Olympic-style Greco-Roman wrestling and tag-team matches in the same show -- which, given the limited audiences and venues of Sherlockiana, we often see both kinds of scholarship in the same publication or program.

While most Sherlock Holmes symposiums are single track (and 221B Con is especially multi-track), it might be interesting to see a Sherlockian weekend that ran a dual-track program with academic scholarship and scholarship entertainment running side-by-side, where one could go back and forth as one wished. (Given enough audience and presenters to do such a thing.)

Kayfabe Sherlockiana and shoot Sherlockiana (to use the pro wrestling terms for the staged and real moments in the ring) are a balancing act our hobby has been doing for a while now. We don't want things to get too boring, but we do also enjoy a bit of respectability in our fandom. We may never get gold medals or championship belts (even though it would be really sweet if we did) but looking at our hobby from the lens of wrestling is not without its benefits.

And I will stop there, as . . . well, I'm stopping there.


  1. From a wrestling lens, we can present John Bennett Shaw the investiture "Bobby 'the Brain' Heenan" as he was the best manager for understanding the often prefabricated line between the perceived Kayfabe (Fandom) and Shoot (B,S.I.). Every Sherlockian, wishing to be a face, often finds himself playing the heel, right Jon Lellenberg? Imagine a Sherlockian never being issued an investiture, for being more media based (heel) than literary (face) in the eyes of the omnipotent Vince McMahon (Mike Whelan). Least we forget, the Heels are secretly the best loved Champions since they are stylin', profilin', limousine riding, jet flying, kiss-stealing, wheelin' n' dealin' sons of a gun. Perhaps the new alternative fan based promoter Tony Khan (Michael Kean) will make amends for those ancient slights, I see he already began the fight with an investiture to the long deserving Undertaker (Tim Johnson) and the Bella Twins (the 221b Con divas Heather and Crystal). Now if this shoot doesn't confuse the reader more than the kayfabe blog above it, I'll be hornswoggled! And may Danhausen place a curse on any Sherlockian who doesn't agree with me, as like him, I too am very nice and very evil.

    1. Ah, Howard, you do good work! (For the three or four people that got all that, anyway!)

    2. What astoundingly unusual language has been used in the foundational writing, which led to the even more unusual language in the reply. Perhaps I have grasped the threads of a Sherlockian garment too bizarre even for the likes of a globe trotting, former intelligence officer, as myself. Irrespective of such difficulties presented here in, I shall soldier on.