Regarding your coverage of September 1998: We all know that Russo has the attention span of a fruit fly and had a difficult time continuing story-line ideas past the first couple of chapters. What on earth gave him the powers of concentration to not only script a coherent journey for the Smoking Skull Belt, but actually wrap it up with a decent conclusion in July, 1999? That’s almost a YEAR of not taking his eye off the ball! (Or belt, I guess.)
I’m betting it was actually Rock or Austin’s idea to resurrect it. Probably connected to the rumoured Brahma Bull belt that never happened.