Raw recap: Hitting all the right notes in the lead-up to Great Balls of Fire

Samoa Joe and Brock Lesnar's split-screen interview on Raw didn't last long, as Joe got in one final shot across the bow Monday night. Provided by WWE (@WWE)

During extended holiday weekends, WWE's ratings typically go down for any number of reasons, leaving a difficult question to be answered. Should loyal viewers who continue to tune in be rewarded with an extra-special edition of Raw or SmackDown, or should the priority be not to lose the casual viewer?

On Monday night, Raw managed to thread the needle and largely do both of those things. For those who elected to tune in over what's essentially a four-day Fourth of July weekend, they got impassioned moments from Enzo Amore and Samoa Joe, a pure wrestling fan's dream match between Finn Balor and Cesaro and Braun Strowman doing ... Braun Strowman things.

There were unlikely challengers stepping up to the plate, with Heath Slater holding his own in an impromptu Intercontinental title match, and Apollo Crews taking a plunge in the moment by claiming the main event spot opposite Strowman. The women's division continued to (slowly but surely) get back toward defining individual stories for each superstar beyond Alexa Bliss, and the cruiserweights of 205 Live got a pair of matches.

And despite missing three great hours of TV, nobody who chose to take Monday off will be too lost when Sunday's Great Balls of Fire pay-per-view air rolls around.

Before you dig into your afternoon barbeques, prep fireworks and pack the coolers for holiday celebrations (or enjoy a typical Tuesday if you're outside the United States), let's get you caught up on everything you might have missed on Monday night.

The good

Samoa Joe breaks the fourth wall

For those who have ever wondered whether WWE's split-screen interviews both originate from the same building or have one side piped in via satellite, we got a pretty definitive answer on Monday night. In what appeared, for all intents and purposes, to be a chance for a slight cool-down before bringing things all the way up in the Universal championship showdown between Brock Lesnar and Samoa Joe, it became anything but.

As Joe got madder and madder at Lesnar and Paul Heyman smirking smugly at him on camera, he ultimately tore off his microphone and earpiece shortly after the Michael Cole-helmed interview began and charged through the backstage area to find Lesnar's locker room.

Backstage agents and security ultimately held Samoa Joe back as he threw open the door to see Lesnar standing there, waiting and mocking him, but the visual of 10 men holding Joe back while Lesnar kept smirking and antagonizing his challenger was the perfect one to whet fans' appetites ahead of Sunday's match.

Enzo Amore gets fiery on the mic

Enzo Amore's impassioned plea to save his partnership with Big Cass last week fell on deaf ears but gave us some welcome insight into the man Amore is, rather than just a walking catchphrase with swagger oozing out of his pores. Having failed, and bearing the scars of the attempt, Amore once again dusted himself off, put his head down and unleashed his second off-the-charts promo in as many weeks to open up Raw.

His match with Cass on Sunday seems destined to be one-sided, but that didn't stop him from getting the jump on his former tag team partner backstage in the meantime.

Braun Strowman cannot be stopped, but Roman Reigns still tried

With Roman Reigns seemingly absent from Raw, Braun Strowman demanded competition in his absence. Titus O'Neil volunteered Apollo Crews, giving the up-and-coming high flyer his first Raw main event. He managed to get a few licks in for his trouble, but just when he started to build a little momentum, things turned sideways in a hurry.

Three powerslams and a pin followed, along with a few knocks for O'Neil post-match, and Strowman symbolically threw Crews into the ambulance. When it wouldn't leave the arena as requested, it was clear shenanigans were afoot. Reigns was in the driver's seat, and ultimately speared Strowman off the top of the stage -- but it was of little use, as Strowman got up almost as quickly as Reigns did.

Will Sunday be the final chapter? It seems there's still some steam there, but with Reigns declaring himself No. 1 contender to the Universal title for SummerSlam, who can really say?

Sasha Banks gets the upper hand on Alexa Bliss

Two weeks ago, the lone women's match on Raw took less than five minutes of airtime and looked like an afterthought. Last week, the women tore it up in the main event as Sasha Banks became No. 1 contender to the Raw women's championship and Nia Jax looked every bit the unstoppable force she's been made out to be from day one.

Monday's women's segment was more in line with the latter scenario, as a tag team match early on in the show helped build up the individual characters and personalities of the Raw women's division, which has been so desperately needed. Banks was a beast and got the upper hand in what became a handicap match; Bayley's star continued to fall; Alexa Bliss looked vulnerable; and Jax became increasingly agitated. Sometimes keeping it simple works best.

Cesaro and Finn Balor have the perfect Raw match

If you're looking for the blueprint for the perfect Monday Night Raw match that doesn't give too much away, look no further than Cesaro vs. Finn Balor. After eight or nine minutes of intense, thoughtful in-ring action, The Hardy Boyz and Elias Samson got involved to just the right degree without making it too chaotic.

Balor picked up the win, but the real winners on this night were the fans. If Cesaro ever gets another shot in high-level singles action, Balor seems an ideal foil.

The Miz keeps Heath Slater from making his kids proud

Miz TV quickly devolved into chaos, but at least this week it wasn't in a way that would upset network censors and sponsors. Dean Ambrose came seeking out a match, and Heath Slater followed, after pinning The Miz a couple of weeks back. Kurt Angle gave both of them what they wanted, as Slater would get an Intercontinental title shot on Raw, and Ambrose would get the winner on Sunday.

Slater showed he can hang in a big spot, and Miz put on a show despite wrestling in street clothes. A lot of people are hoping Sunday proves to be the end of the seemingly endless Miz-Ambrose rivalry, but everyone hit the right notes (and Miz got to provide the weekly subtle nod toward Angle's increasingly puzzling situation).

The bad

Bray Wyatt continues to meander

Whereas something as out there and esoteric as Bray Wyatt wandering the desert might have rung a little truer in past years, Wyatt's ongoing struggle to produce meaningful wins has taken a lot of the wind out of the sails in his promos. Few imagine he'll come out on top against Seth Rollins in their budding rivalry, and another loss will only separate Wyatt that much more from the ranks of believable top contenders on Raw.

The great forgotten tag team division

As has been the case in recent months as SmackDown has hit its stride, not everyone can be accommodated. Even on a three-hour show, there has to be a forgotten act or two. And also like SmackDown, it's the tag team division that's taken a back seat. The 30-minute ironman match set for Sunday between the Hardy Boyz and Sheamus and Cesaro should be a great blow-off to that rivalry, opening things back up, but in recent weeks both Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, and the recently returned Revival, have become afterthoughts.

The explosion of Enzo and Cass and The Golden Truth hasn't helped matters, as the only other teams out of the four previously mentioned are Slater and Rhyno and the newly cobbled-together duo of Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel, but it's something to keep an eye on.

The shattered truth

The video vignettes between Goldust and R-Truth were entertaining at first, but everything about this rivalry has been clunky. Give it a viking funeral on Sunday, and let's be done with it.

Cedric Alexander exercises his demons -- maybe

Speaking of rivalries that will never end, Cedric Alexander finally put a bow on his head-scratching spat with Noam Dar and Alicia Fox with a lumbar check and a quick pinfall win over Dar, though we've said that before. It increasingly feels like this clash is an anchor around Alexander's ankle, and the sooner he can finally leave it behind, the better.