Kota Ibushi Didn't Feel Like He Had Returned To Wrestling Until Joey Janela GCW Match

Time flies in wrestling, which is why Kota Ibushi's return to the ring feels like it happened three years ago and not, as it turns out, only three weeks ago during WrestleMania weekend. The former IWGP World Champion wrestled two distinct matches, first against Mike Bailey at Josh Barnett's Bloodsport, and then the next day against Joey Janela at Joey Janela's Spring Break. As it turns out though, Ibushi didn't really see his bout with Bailey as his first match back, which he revealed in a training video posted to his personal YouTube channel.

"Honestly, was that really my return match?" Ibushi said. "The first day felt like a sparring match in a wrestling dojo. A shoot-style match you would say. That's how it felt like. The fans enjoyed it, but I didn't have that sensation on my end. That's why the first day didn't feel like my return. It only hit me when I went backstage. 'Oh, I'm finally back. But there's also a match tomorrow, so I know it'll come tomorrow. So I'll prepare for tomorrow,' and turned my mental switch."

In contrast, Ibushi's match with Janela was the complete opposite, one that had Ibushi feeling he was back in the saddle for the first time since he suffered a shoulder injury back in August 2021. "This one really felt like I had made my return," Ibushi said. "A wrestling match with a proper three count. 'One, two, argh. One, two, three.' Those kinds of cheers, the cheers when something's reversed or the cheers when you kick out at one. This is pro wrestling. I felt like I was doing pro wrestling. That sensation I felt that I finally returned to pro wrestling only set in on the second day. That was it, I did wrestling."