Dear Mr. Keith,
My nephew has been re-watching WWF from 1996 on since he was only 6 when he first saw it. He just watched the match where Owen Hart injured Austin's neck. It got me to wondering, if Austin had not sustained the neck injury, would the "main event' brawling style have ever been used as much?
I believe it would have, yes. It was too valuable of a storytelling crutch for Russo for it not to take over like it did. Although Austin's injury necessitated it becoming the main style in a big way, the business was moving in that direction anyway, so it was likely inevitable.