Was there ever any backlash against Stone Cold when he was on top? Obviously a lot has been said about both Cena and HHH when they were top guys, but did the "smart" fans ever really get sick of Austin during the late 90s/early 2000s?
Yeah, specifically there was a feeling in late 2000 that he was getting stale and maybe a heel turn might be a good idea to freshen him up. I wouldn’t say it was outright backlash but there was definitely a feeling that Rock and HHH were passing him by. Obviously that shows why you shouldn’t book big things around what the smart fans think.
Now, the REAL backlash came after his retirement, when he was "Sheriff Austin" as the authority figure on RAW and just doing the same crap week after week with no way for heels to get heat on him. That was when it was clearly time for him to go away for a long time.