Re: Was the Rock the best example of being bigger than the face of the company?
I think people are misunderstanding more favorable booking vs who was more over. Austin had way more favorable booking, this is indisputable, but Rock did better business on top on house shows, did better PPV buys, was the top guy for their best year where Austin wasn't even there(2000), and when Austin came back, in late 2000, ratings actually went down. I'm not blaming Steve, the move to TNN hurt for sure, but he didn't stop the bleeding. Business went to shit after WM 17, and Austins heel turn hurt for sure, but Rock literally went away for months, he wasn't even on the show, that points more to Rock leaving impacting business more. Austin lost a lot of his luster when he went down in late 1999, the only business he really did after that was with Rock during and leading up to WM 17. He didn't pop business when he returned in 2000 until he feuded with Rock, his heel turn was a complete disaster, his babyface turn after 2001 SS was fine, but he clearly wasn't as over as Rock at that point. In 2002 he was basically an upper midcard guy, messing with the likes of Booker, Bossman, Scott Hall, Eddie Guerrero, etc, didn't have the same level of booking and he couldn't stay over to that degree anymore.
If we're gonna be bare bones about the whole thing, Austin took way more to get over and needed a lot of protection to stay over. Bret Hart, Mike Tyson, and Vince McMahon played a massive role in getting Austin over, and they fed that machine with insanely overprotective booking to keep him over, so much so that it was to the detriment to the other guys on the roster. Rock got over just on his abilities, he was not given any protection whatsoever, was initially a background member in the Nation, then he was an upper midcard guy who got geeked out to guys like Ken Shamrock on a regular basis, and even as a main event guy he got beat with regularity, even occasionally doing jobs to guys like Al Snow, Test, Bossman, Rhyno, Val Venis, Billy Gunn, etc. And yet against all odds he stayed a megastar. When Austin started to taste that kind of booking in 2002, he faded into midcard obscurity, couldn't handle it, lost his shit and quit. Not only was Rock the bigger star, he was the better talent who could get over on his own and stay over no matter what.