Dave Meltzer Discusses The Monday Night Wars, Three Hour RAWs, UFC's Rise, WCW Folding, More

To me, you would want people wanting more not burned out. Again, it's the cash on hand and it's guaranteed money. Pay-per-view money is not guaranteed. House show money is steady but it's not guaranteed. This is guaranteed-in-contract money and they're not going to turn it down. But, in the long run, is it good for them popularity-wise? No, it's not.

WrestlingINC: You mentioned the decline starting in '01, that's when they turned Steve Austin heel [at WrestleMania 17]. Do you think it was necessarily when they turned Austin heel? It didn't work creatively, but it was also that he didn't have anyone interesting to feud with at that time that could have made it work.

Meltzer: Yeah, the whole thing about Hunter not turning face. Austin turning heel was definitely a bad move. It was the wrong guy to turn heel. There are certain guys who are not good as faces, certain guys who are not good as heels and they're great the other way.

The axiom that if you're a great heel, you'll be a great face -- often, that's true. But there are exceptions to every rule. When Hulk Hogan turned heel, it was successful but it was also because the public wanted it that way. They were tired of Hogan. When Austin turned, they weren't tired of Austin. That was like turning Bruno [Sammartino] heel.

I know people will go, 'God, why didn't they ever turn Bruno heel? It would have been huge.' No, it would have killed the f-cking company. But the outright stupidity. So many people came into the company with Austin, Austin was a big deal. They knew wrestling was fake but they believed in Austin and Vince McMahon.

It wasn't even so much Austin turning heel, but it was shaking hands with Vince McMahon. it was like you're watching this soap opera, it was like going, 'Hey, it's all fake after all.' Austin shaking hands with Vince McMahon, that magic moment at the end of that 'Mania, that was the stupidest thing. Austin will tell you that, too.

Austin said, 'I should have stunned Vince impromptu at that moment and stayed face.' That would have been what happened. The thing with the Austin turn, also -- and I remember this well because I was so against it. I remember in February of that year before 'Mania is when I was pretty much told by people in that company that it looks like they're going to turn Austin. They were kind of like trying to sell me on it. I was like, 'That's a big mistake.'

Rock can turn. You can turn Rock because the people love Rock, but it's not like Austin. Rock can be a babyface and Rock can turn heel. It's fine. He's got the charisma. They don't love him the same way. They don't love him. They like him, they like him a lot. Austin, they identify with. They don't identify with Rock.

When they did all those angles before that WrestleMania to make Austin the heel and Rock the face, ever week on TV -- with one exception, I think there was one city where they actually cheered Rock -- but almost every week, they're cheering Austin and they're booing Rock even though Rock's playing the face role and Austin's playing the heel role.

I'm going, 'The people are telling you this. God, damn, they're telling you this, Rock's got to be the heel!' They went in with that mentality of, no, Austin's been a face for long enough. It's run it's course, it's time for Austin to be a heel. Austin's a good heel. Yes, Austin can play a good heel, I have no doubt Austin as a performing can play a very good and entertaining heel. But it's not what the public wants and it's not what they're going to pay for. It was the wrong guy to turn.

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