Originally Posted by JAROTO
They made HHH the mastermind behind this, but I think the original plan was to have HHH or less likely Rock being the one doing it. Rikishi wasn't even in contract with the WWE when the incident took place. It's a sure bet it wasn't the original plan.
At one point there were rumors Rock would be going as the heel leading to WM17 leading a "Samoan" stable with Rikishi and Haku. Not sure if that was scrapped or wasn't really considered as it was just a rumor.
Must of been a false rumor, no way Rock was turning heel from 1999-2002, he was the face of the company. Austin was scheduled to turn heel at mania. what happened was, Austin wasn't drawing well nor were his storylines working, they even almost turned Foley heel in late 2000, as Austin needed an authority figure,
so what they did was do the classic, turn the babyface on the fans, turning Rikishi heel would upset the fans, so it was done, didn't work though.
Austin always needed an authority figure, when you add that with placing The Rock in a non-main event feud with Rikishi in Oct/Nov, Changing over to TNN and putting Austin in the main story again, then you can see why the ratings went down.
One of the reasons why people were angry with The Rock, was because he went to do his movie after Mania 17, which lead to ratings decreasing, and poor product/end of the boom period, as the face of the boom period(Rock) was missing, and we had no face on par with Rock.
When Rock left and Austin took over for the main character in 2001, the ratings sunk, they came back when Rock returned.