The Briton, who hadn’t fought for 12 months since defeating Andy Ruiz to win back his championship belts in December 2019, showed some understandable signs of ring rust but still produced a destructive performance in front of 1,000 fans.
The win, achieved with a ninth-round stoppage off the back of a stunning right hand, now surely sets the table for a titanic all-British clash with WBC and Ring magazine champion Tyson Fury in 2021.
The bout looked all but over in the third with a vicious uppercut flooring the Bulgarian challenger but Joshua surprisingly backed off in the fourth, defying those in the arena keen for an early finish.
Pulev had talked the talk in the build-up to this fight and insisted he had been waiting for a second chance at Joshua after he was forced to pull out of a 2017 meeting due to a shoulder injury.
And he hung in well here showing admirable steel in the face of heavy punishment, landing a handful shots of his own too, albeit with Joshua still remaining in full control.
After the early reticence from the champion there was to be no mercy in the ninth, a big right enough to send Pulev tumbling to the canvas before the contest was waved off.
The win moves Joshua’s professional record to 24 victories and just the one defeat.
Next up appears to be a mouthwatering and long-awaited clash with Fury, with a preliminary deal in place for two fights next year, should terms be agreed between the two.
Joshua though, stopped short of directly calling Fury out after the fight, choosing instead to thank his fans for their support.
“Wembley Arena, can you hear me. Let’s make some noise," he said. "One thousand fans, I love you all. Boxing is about less talk and more actions and I hope everyone was satisfied.
"For me, I stuck to what I know best. The boxing. I don’t really want to do an interview. Go and have a lovely Christmas and we’ll see you in 2021. You ask the crowd what they want to see.
"Last year, 2019. I want to challenge. It’s not about the opponent. It’s about the legacy and the belt. If that’s Tyson Fury, let it be Tyson Fury. It’s no big deal."
Eddie Hearn is in no doubt that Fury is the fight to make next.
“Starting from tomorrow let's make this Tyson Fury fight happen,” the Matchroom chief said. "It is the only fight to make in boxing, it is the biggest fight in boxing and the biggest fight in British boxing. I know he wants it."
Fury for his part was quick to state he wants the unification bout next, taking to social media to insist he would knock Joshua out in “two to three rounds”.
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