Steve Austin was the PWI Rookie of the Year for 1990 and unlike most winners of those awards, he was clearly deserving. His debut and feud with Chris Adams in USWA was as hot a program as any n the country at that time, including the Big Two. And he was also a skilled, refined worker, especially considering his limited experience.
I always wondered why the WWF never made a more serious run for Austin in early 1991. Their roster was pretty thin, and most of the guys there were holdovers from the 80's and getting stale. Several sources say Vince always liked Austin as a worker, even back then. It seems like he would have been a perfect fit on the WWF's undercard at the time with a chance to move up quickly. Instead, WCW signed him with seemingly no opposition from the WWF.
Austin was super-hot at the time, but I think that:
a) He fit the mold of WCW better at that point, and
2) WCW was offering guaranteed money, which Vince definitely was not.
But you're right, in all the Observers at the time, Dave talks about how Vince had wanted Austin for years before he brought him in.