One of the most anticipated series on Hulu and FX is here! The first episode of the docu-drama Welcome to Wrexham details how Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney pull off a successful takeover buy of the Welsh football club Wrexham AFC—soccer, to Americans.
Wrexham is a working-class city located in northern Wales, in the United Kingdom. The town has suffered plenty of economic downturns for decades and it’s reflected in how the football club has also taken plenty of losses.
So many that they’ve sunk to the bottom of the pro leagues.
Welcome to Wrexham season 1, episode 1 recap: It’ll all go t*ts up
McElhenney and Reynolds approach the stadium entrance of The Racecourse Ground in Wrexham City and interact with locals and fans. They sign autographs and take selfies with families.
Inside the stadium, Rob muses at the enormity of what must have been many thousands of people who’ve watched the games in the last 150 years where they’re standing. As Ryan and Rob converse on the field they think about there’s a version of this story where, as newbie owners, they are the villains.
Segue to a montage, mostly of Wrexham in the 2020s to a local folk song, lyrics beating a hype drum for town pride: “Welcome to Wrexham / A diamond in the heart of Wales…” As news outlets report that Rob and Ryan are about to buy the football club, UK and Wrexham locals express their doubts in interviews.
They ranged from the cautious to the sneering: “We’ve heard it all before, it’ll all go tits up, a hundred percent.” Rob goes to a Philadelphia Eagles game and recounts how he had always been a sports fanatic.
He remembers how growing up in working-class South Philly, the bonding moments in sports, especially with his family, always felt like important events. Rob explains how a sports team becomes an extension of the city and that it’s a big part of the reason why he has decided to buy the Wrexham Associated Football Club.
“I feel like I know those people. I am one of those people,” he exclaims.
Welcome to Wrexham season 1, episode 1 recap: English pro football pyramid
In Los Angeles, British comedian Humphrey Ker (who was instrumental in brokering the way to the deal for Rob and Ryan to buy Wrexham) plays football in Rob’s backyard. Ker explains the rules of English football, then goes on to narrate how he would watch football during breaks in the lunch room at Rob’s company.
Eventually Rob got very curious about the English system as he watched with Ker. Ker explains the English professional football system in detail like how you can get upgraded or demoted depending on your wins and losses.
Or even kicked out altogether. There are four tiers to the pyramid: the Premier League tier is at the top where Manchester United, Chelsea FC, and the crème de la crème play for the most chance at profit and fame.
The tiers below that are the Championship League, then League One, and then League Two. He goes on to explain that for the past 14 seasons Wrexham AFC have been playing in the National League, a tier below League Two.
It is the lowest level of pro football in the UK. Rob explains his understanding of the demotion and promotion system, postulating that you might theoretically develop a team good enough and bring it up from the lowest tier to the top.
However, Rob realizes he also will need an enormous amount of funds to do that, more than the TV money he has from comedies like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Mythic Quest. Enter Ryan Reynolds, as someone who has gained great resources from movies and investments like alcohol and cybersecurity.
Welcome to Wrexham season 1, episode 1 recap: Conference call with Deadpool
At the post-production suite of the 2021 sci-fi movie The Adam Project where he’s recording overdubs, Ryan describes growing up in a Canadian working-class family during a time of struggle. He had a “hard-ass” father who started as a cop then became a food broker.
Ryan mainly got validation from his late father through sports. Rob and Ryan FaceTime to prepare for the call with the Wrexham Supporters Trust, the stockholders.
They will need a majority vote of 75 to 25 for approval to purchase. The bar is high because the club has had “shady people” in the past as owners.
Brian Philips, the chair of the Trust, is presiding over the Zoom call. He then introduces Rob and Ryan, clarifying what it is exactly the members are voting for.
The Wrexham families are delighted to see the Hollywood actors on the video conference as they take the floor to outline their vision and why they’re buying Wrexham in particular. Rob and Ryan discuss their imposter syndrome and how it never really leaves you.
Welcome to Wrexham season 1, episode 1 recap: The relativity of a footballer’s salary
Spencer Harris, the honorary VP of the club, details how most people aren’t even aware that Wales is a separate country from England. Their football club was the best in Wales for many years, but the town eventually sunk into depression and unemployment in the 1980s.
With it went the fortunes of the team. In 2020, the town is still economically embattled and intertwined with its poverty is Wrexham AFC’s position at 12th place on the league.
Wrexham’s team captain Shaun Pearson and other players paint a grim picture of their situation. Intercut with their training footage at the stadium they explain how different it is to be playing at the dismal tier they are at in terms of money, fame, and lifestyle from other famous footballers like David Beckham.
A player at the Premier League can expect to earn US$4.36M per year on average while National League players in Wrexham earn a max of US$48,600. Outside the Racecourse Ground stadium, Wayne Jones, owner of The Turf Hotel, talks to a gathering of supporters about the upcoming season’s games and strategies about how they can possibly win.
We follow Spencer Harris as he explains how, as VP and director of the club, he is also an unpaid volunteer dovetailing his passion while working at a multinational company. As the person who manages logistics and executive affairs he also speaks to the media, making him the de facto “face” of Wrexham.
Wayne Jones takes us on a tour of the Turf Hotel. On the first floor is a bar which is the place for fans and supporters to celebrate wins and commiserate losses.
Welcome to Wrexham season 1, episode 1 recap: Vote Hollywood
On November 15, 2020, Spencer Harris, the team’s director, calls Rob and Ryan to tell them the good news that the board members have approved their purchase of the club. More than 90 percent turned up to vote.
Meanwhile, outside the stadium in Wrexham, supporters celebrate the new owners by lighting fireworks, drinking beer, and chanting the team name. Among the rowdy partyers is a man in a Deadpool cosplay suit rejoicing with the rest of his buddies.
News footage announces the successful takeover in several languages, including footage of the Welsh secretary at the UK Parliament congratulating Rob and Ryan.
Welcome to Wrexham season 1, episode 1 recap: Review
There was necessarily plenty of place setting to contextualize the takeover and an info dump on the workings of the English football league (plus some Welsh language trivia) for noobs like me. Despite that, the first episode was undeniably persuasive enough to persuade even non-football fans like me to give this series a chance.
Just seeing how low Wrexham sits on the totem pole and what the supporters are like despite that purgatory, stirs emotions of sympathy. The meat of why people have been excited for this series is all about the drama of the hopeful underdog.
Beyond the interesting sheen of two Hollywood funnymen getting into the football business, it’s the stories of the supporters that bring on high emotions. It’s a foreshadowing of what is potentially a gripping nonfiction arc.
Ryan and Rob come off as extremely sincere, but I’ll be rooting for more screen time for the locals. I’d like to know more about folks like Spencer Harris, the unpaid director with a corporate day job, and the embattled team captain Shaun Pearson.
Already the characters make for compelling TV. This is a smartly paced docu drama that happens to be both a “stranger comes to town” (and buys the local team) narrative and an underdog sports story.
What it might become is as exciting as a possible win after decades of awful performances.
What did you think of the first episode of “Welcome to Wrexham”?
New episodes will premiere on both FX and Hulu every Wednesdays at 6:01 ET.