Welcome to Wrexham (Season 1) 2022

““There is a version of this story, where we’re the villains.”

Right away, I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not a huge fan of what the rest of the world refers to as Football (but we Americans refer to as Soccer) nor do I have any inkling of how the leagues work across the pond or the system that has been in place for centuries. That being said, sports, whatever the league or country is a universal language, one we all share and can understand. Any fan will agree that seeking out real stories of athletes, teams, personas is something we all do – watching underdogs rise up from the gutters of obscurity, with the odds stacked up against them, to shock the world and become household names etched in the history books.

The team that fits the description, that many have not known existed before outside of the home country itself is Wrexham A.F.C. Wrexham is a Welsh professional football club, playing legendary Racecourse Grounds, and is the oldest football club in Wales and the 3rd oldest in the world being formed in 1864. Where many of us are introduced to this football club is credited to the new docuseries Welcome to Wrexham.

After the introduction is made, the docuseries opens on new club owners, two A-list celebrities, though one would argue is more famous than the other because of the “movie money” – Rob McElhenney, most known for Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Ryan Reynolds, most recently known for Deadpool, Mint Mobile and Aviation Gin. You may ask, what does two celebrities know about the oldest football club in Wales? You’re not alone, even Wrexham is asking that very question. During the pandemic, Rob and Ryan teamed up and decided to invest in a team and sport they knew nothing about – an outrageous decision where the risk far outweighs the reward upon date of purchase.

When the club’s ownership was transferred to Rob and Ryan, Wrexham was struggling. Playing in the National League, the fifth tier in English football out of 6, well below the Premiere League and 3 tiers below the EFL (English Football League). We learn that Wrexham has been in the National League for 15 straight seasons – every year the hope is for promotion (the first-place team moves up a league) rather than face relegation (moving down a league). For every club, promotion is the goal – more money is injected into the club to update the stadiums, get better players and more notoriety while with relegation, the club loses money, attention, and good players.

It’s far more difficult to achieve promotion in the National League – the level of competition is high with the potential for heartbreak even higher. Something we all can understand and root for. Welcome to Wrexham is a true underdog story from the opening credits of either ‘The Times They Are a-Changin” by Keb’ Mo’ or “Everyday” by Buddy Holly to the closing moments of each of the 18 episodes. Not only will you become invested as a viewer of this little-known football club, but a sense of pride will swell with each victory and heartbreak with each defeat.

With stars like Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney front and center, their journey in purchasing the football club to becoming business partners, the two are on screen together much of the 18 episodes. Rob and Ryan go from social media friends to buying a team together and their larger-than-life personas make for a compelling story. Two celebrities that can have chemistry with inanimate objects are approachable, open, vulnerable and sincere within every moment of screentime. Not only do they make frequent trips to Wales and Wrexham, but they quickly become invested in the community, the culture and the town itself.

The season focuses most of its time on Rob and Ryan to draw the eyes to the show. However, when the focus shifts to the coaches, players, fans and those who live in Wrexham, the season becomes fully engrossing. People who live half a world away are given the spotlight and their time is made the most of it. Where fans of any sport will fall in love with Welcome to Wrexham is with the community – working class people who live and die by the club. Some fans are generational, some find it through a spouse or partner and some on their own accord. It’s these people that will bring viewers back week over week as they experience every single emotion under the sun watching the Wrexham Dragons ritualistically.

What Baseball is to America, Football is to Wales and the United Kingdom. Passion fueled Rob McElhenney to invest in the club from his love of the Philadelphia Eagles. Finding that connective tissue made the choice attainable for Rob and after 18 episodes of Wrexham – learning about the history and passion from their fans, I myself felt a connection to each individual that got in front of the camera. The frustration of losing seasons is felt, but the joy of winning is infectious. These games happened over a year ago and editing of the entire season amplifies the rush of adrenaline.

Every goal scored by Paul Mullin, Jordan Davies and Ollie Palmer to every expletive half time speech by coach Phil Parkinson, Wrexham the town and the team is just like any other and after watching the progression and getting to know the players on a personal level the way a docuseries offers, you can’t help but keep tabs from now on and root for them.

Outside of football, the rich history of Wales is given gracefully. How the town progressed and adapted over the years from agriculture to industrial to the food, songs and language – each episode is a lesson about football and the leagues system as it is a story of humanity and the will to persevere. If the town of Wrexham didn’t think Rob and Ryan were invested before, Rob learning the Welsh language fluently should put minds at ease.

Welcome to Wrexham is a roller coaster ride of wins and losses, triumphs and defeats, personal stories of family, friendship and fierce passion. After a tumultuous start at the beginning of the 2021 season for the club, when the upside kicks in and the club turns things around, the skeptics of the purchase turn to optimists. New players and coaches are brought in, and the club is on the right path to getting promoted outside of the National League. Obviously the fear of the Wrexham community is Rob and Ryan aren’t interested in the club itself but quickly that point is made to be not true. Rob and Ryan have put their lives into Wrexham AFC, proof of humanity and spirit of care for something generations have loved.

Where to Watch: Hulu

Release Date: August 24, 2022

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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