Re: Stone cold's rice to the top: when and how was it started?
He probably kept getting bigger and bigger after the Austin 3:16 interview. I think he was supposed to be actually given the WWF Title at WrestleMania 13, but Michaels didn't want to drop it and etc etc Taker got it instead. But funnily enough Austin having that submission match with Bret Hart likely did more for his career than winning the strap that night could have.
He was probably their definite #1 star once Bret left a gap open after Survivor Series 97. The 98 Rumble was pretty much centered around him (b/c of the big rivalry v McMahon continuing), and the next night was the big "Austin and Tyson" segment. This was all before he even became Champion.