Hey Scott, I find all this recent talk about Daniel Bryan's drawing power, or lack there of, to be fascinating. I was just wondering if you could tell me when it was first seen that Austin was a drawing power, which PPV had a good buyrate that was seen as primarily financially successful because of Austin, and when did house show attendance start going up because of Austin? Also, what are the answers to these same questions, but regarding Cena? Thanks.
Austin was kind of a long-term project, but when he started to get hot in mid-97, he got HOT. Ratings would spike for his appearances in particular. The MSG RAW where he stunned Vince McMahon would probably be the point where he went from midcard sensation into undisputed #1 guy in the making, and clearly the Tyson RAW put him over the top. That angle led to Wrestlemania 14 going up a crazy huge amount of buys, plus the momentum from it propelled RAW to the first ratings win over Nitro in 82 weeks. If I recall, Rumble 98 (built around Austin winning) did extraordinarily well too and seemed to be a strong sign of his drawing power.
With Cena, the writing was on the wall almost as soon as he won the US title from Big Show. He was driving ratings on Smackdown on a weekly basis, and the Cena/JBL + HHH/Batista Wrestlemania did an ungodly huge buyrate. Everyone knew Cena was the next guy as soon as he dumped Bull Buchanan and started going over dudes with the FU clean in the middle.