No it did, you had no questhelper addons, you had no flying mounts, you needed to know what you were doing a damned sight more than you do now, and that took skill, Those days you had to look for quests, work on what you wanted to do, not get led along like you do now. That did mean more skill, more planning, more dedication to an extent. I would like to imagine the uproar if Blizz brought back those quests that took hours to do due to the fact that the chain took you from one continent to the other, running all the way.
It doesn't equal to needing MORE skill. It was different and people adapt. If the game had remained the same as back then to this day, then people would be INCREDIBLY bored by now with the mechanics, time requiered even for the smallest of progression and the lack of mechanics.
I know for a fact that there was plenty of bad players back then as well who made it to level 60 and even saw content. As long as they had time to spare. Just as today, they never got to the top of the content.
I have only played since Wrath, (so I am sure my opinion means bugger all to some people) but my other half who got me started on this game has played WoW since Vanilla - and although he loved it, he pretty much feels the same as you, judging from your quote here, which somewhat confirms (my own personal view) that back in Vanilla, WoW was new, amazing, fresh and the community was a lot smaller - so naturally, original players look back with fondness and - let's be honest - a certain amount of rose-tinted nostalgia goggles when discussing certain aspects of Vanilla WoW.
I heard about how you used to have to wait for ages to construct a dungeon or a raid group then after all that wait, someone would drop out, just before you got started - therefore you would have to start the search again - repeatedly running back and forth to the LFG channel in the cities and back to all the instances whist trying to faff around with organising people who kept dropping out must have been a nightmare, and as you say, time consuming and for other stuff ridiculously grindy. With no flying mounts. Which, as you correctly point out, is not really down to skill, but down to people having a lot more free time and patience!
However, having said that, I am sure boss fights then were a different story which required more knowledge than today, to be honest.