Just watched a video from RAW, April 2001 where Stone Cold was battling The Rock in the steel cage. At some point during the match, because Austin is now aligned with Mr. McMahon, HHH comes down and helps beat down the Rock.
If my memory serves me, this Austin heel turn was very unpopular, especially after they spent all that time building him up. Was there a long term plan with this story line, or was Vice just seeing what the fans would ultimately tolerate, and thus turning Austin back to a face just a few short months later?
That cage match should have been the babyface turn that made HHH into a main event superhero. People were READY for the HHH/Rock alliance to oppose Austin and instead we got the opposite. That may have been the downfall of the entire Attitude Era in that one match, in fact.
Anyway, yes, there was definitely a long-term plan, which was heel Austin putting over babyface HHH at Wrestlemania 18 to cap off the insanely successful Invasion storyline that would see WCW spun off into its own revived TV show and touring company. Clearly, things did not go according to plan. They honestly thought that Austin's heel turn was going to be a thing that worked and that fans would somehow accept it and it would freshen up his character, which of course everyone beforehand was calling as totally ridiculous before it even happened.