How responsible do you think 2002-2004 era HHH and Taker are for the state of the product today? I remember that shortly after Austin walked out and The Rock left for Hollywood, the subsequent business slump was explained away as a result of 'cyclical' business and not the fact that the remaining main-eventers didn't have the drawing power of Austin/Rock (to be fair, who did?) I remember it vividly as being the first time Vince seemed complacent about house numbers and buy rates (although I remember some crappy 'shock tv to try to rebuild ratings). It just seems that this is the genesis point of the 'none bigger than the company' philosophy that they have now.
I think the true genesis point was Brock winning the UFC title after getting out of his non-compete, because Vince was apparently REALLY butthurt about that for a long time. But yeah, I remember back in 2002 when Austin and Rock both took time off, and the word was that HHH and Taker were going to step up and be the big stars. And everyone was like "Yeah, OK then, good luck with that." Thank Jebus that they found John Cena when they did, because can you imagine what the business would have been like without him?