It gradually transitioned:
Vince Russo jumps ship. The pioneer of rapid heel turns, countless segments and angles, characters, short matches and regular title changes.
Shortly afterwards WWF looses a number sponsors due to backlash from all the edginess. They promise to tone things down. Characters Val Venis and The Godfather are gradually toned down.
Russo replacement Chris Kreski is replaced by Stephanie McMahon. The 'Who hit Austin' angle is the first of many angles to disappoint and the product goes on cruise control, although many don't realise for some time.
Austin turns heel and joins forces with his nemesis at the end of a great PPV, held shortly after WCW and ECW go out of business (aka the end of the wrestling war).
Survivor Series 2001
WWF puts the final nail in the coffin of WCW after a six month Vince McMahon ego trip. During this time the product is based around in-ring action in contrast to segments.
Ruthless Aggression - June 2002
Vince officially announces a new era. It isn't much different in many respects to 2000 - 2001. They still try controversy (e.g. Billy & Chuck, Katie Vick, Hot Lesbian Action).
When Rikishi was revealed as the driver, it was like what the f**k. But not in a good way and they tried to add a racist aspect with 'I did it for The Rock'. Then it became (predictably) another starring role for super over Triple H, and culminated with him being dropped 50 feet only to return a couple of weeks later in great condition. That was ridiculous even for wrestling.Why do you think it was a disappointment? Just curious.
This, i've always said that for one era to end another needs to begin and the new era was The Ruthless Aggression Era which started with the draft , split rosters, seperate General Manager's and single brand PPV's.Draft 2002, new show concept, new rosters, new set, new GMs, etc. That was the biggest change. WM17 was the peak of wrestling history with the greatest match of all time, then the Invasion storyline with Rock and Vince closing SVS 2001 as the symbol of the official end.
However the real end of an era moment was WM19, Rock and Austin in the ring after the match for one final, emotional moment to officially close the greatest chapter in the history of the business.
Still don't know what they were thinking. Rikishi of all people? I understand wanting him to be a big (literally) heel, the likes of Yokozuna. But to waste a storyline a year in the making on someone like him was just foolish.When Rikishi was revealed as the driver, it was like what the f**k. But not in a good way and they tried to add a racist aspect with 'I did it for The Rock'. Then it became (predictably) another starring role for super over Triple H, and culminated with him being dropped 50 feet only to return a couple of weeks later in great condition. That was ridiculous even for wrestling.
Nobody got any exposure, apart from Rikishi who was very popular and didn't need a heel turn. Even worse, Austin and Triple H were friends six months later and Rikish was fan favourite again for some reason!