This weekend i made a new batch of dough using many of the tips above, and the results were EXCELLENT.
Probably the best crust i have made to date, had a great char to it, browned pefectly, and was crisp on the botton while the crust remained chewy.
Unfortunately i tried a few 'new' methods so not sure which one (or all) were responsible for the improved results, but i'll list what i did differently and what effect i think it had on the outcome:
Salt: added 1/2tsp to the recipe in the first post above. I believe this is the change which had the greatest effect. As i added the salt, i began to think how the salt probably absorbs some of the water during the entire process and the previous lack of salt could account for a droopy/wet dough. Sure enough the dough came out with much more elasticity and there was very little fear of tearing as i spread out the pizza (even draped it over my fists to expand with no problem). I was very surprised at the dramatic change from just a minor amount of salt.
Freeze: i didn't freeze this batch of dough. After removing the dough from the machine and letting it rise about 2 hours, I made 4 balls (i'm guessing about 1lb each) and put them each in their own container in the refrigerator... making two pizzas the following day and the other two balls are still in the refrigerator. I thought it was "ok" to freeze dough, but the more i read here it is generally not recommended. Next time i make dough i'll take two balls from the same batch (i get two balls from the same batch of dough making), putting one in the refrigerator and freezing the other, which should give me an apples-to-apples comparison to see if i notice any degredation.
Yeast: i used a different brand of yeast (Fleishman's Active Dry this time, i'm not sure of the previous brand i used (i can find out next time i'm at that store), although i do know it was an active dry type as well). This yeast seemed a bit more 'seed-like' than the previous yeast brand, which was a bit more clumpy and the yeast stuck together. Both resulted in a dough which would rise plenty, so i'm guessing this wasn't too much of a factor in the difference
Rise Period: after removing the dough from the machine and letting it rise about 2 hours, this time i used a cloth over the bowl, previously using saran wrap. This resulted in a 'skin' forming on the dough, so i kneeded the dough a few times to blend it in. I don't think the towel vs plastic wrap had any effect on the results, but i could be wrong.
So i'm excited to try again, but my new success has raised a few more questions as i strive to perfect this and get more consistent (sorry, don't know board protocal if i should be posting this as a new topic)...
1) Bryan S mentioned above keeping the dough for up to 14 days... will dough really last this long in the refrigerator? If so, why would anyone freeze dough... as even when i make 8 balls in an 'all day dough session' they usually don't last more than 2 weeks anyway!
2) What is the type of yeast most frequently recommended on the board? Seems to me Fleishman's Active Dry is looked down upon somewhat.
3) When letting dough rise, is a towel recommended over the bowl vs. saran wrap? If so, how do i prevent the hardening skin which formed when i used just a towel?
4) I don't know what happens during each step of the bread machine's dough cycle, i assume it's identical to Art's machine above... should i let the dough continue to rise after i remove the dough from the machine or it go directly from machine to refrigerator? I did pull out the manual and all it really states is that the dough mode only goes thru one rise period vs. two rise cycles when using it to actually make/bake bread.
5) I will soon purchase a kitchen scale so that i can get more consistent in my dough/pizza making. Will a 5lb capacity be enough or should i opt for a slightly more expensive 11lb. capacity?
Thanks again for the continued insight and help... can't wait to give it another try.