The rotating package documentation says

Note that the package uses rotation facilities from the graphicx package. When generating DVI output, users should note that rotation is typically not visible in a DVI viewer: conversion to, and viewing, PostScript or PDF is necessary.

Personally I use pdfLaTeX for compilation, so I do not encounter this problem. But the arXiv allows users to compile into DVI, and who knows what a publisher might use when processing a paper.

So the question is: what ways there are to rotate stuff and to what extent they can be considered universal?

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    no, dvi itself has no rotation commands so you have to include driver-specific \specials into the dvi. – David Carlisle Aug 3 '15 at 12:05

The DVI format is described in the documentation for dvitype, for example. It only contains operators for moving, rules and font characters. All other things like rotation, scaling, color are done via \special, which are specific for the DVI processor.

Unhappily, a standard for specifying specials for different DVI processors does not exist. Therefore I would go for dvips, because it is powerful and probably the most used DVI processor. Also, some other processors at least support a subset of dvips' specials.

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